Archive

Large scale document archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the files

Secret no more

 

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

Link to full filesort descending File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/136 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 21 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/138 Algeria (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister Mohammed Benyahia, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 4) 1980 May 20 1980 Jun 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/139 Anguilla (Legislation for separation of Anguilla from St Kitts-Nevis) 1980 Mar 26 1980 Oct 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/140 Argentina (Visit to UK by Dr Martinez de Hoz, Minister of Economy, June 1980) 1980 Feb 26 1980 Jun 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 16
PREM19/141 Australia (Prime Minister’s televised telephone conversation with Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser to mark 50th anniversary of Australia’s first international telephone service) 1980 Apr 18 1980 Apr 21 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 28
PREM19/142 Bangladesh (Visit to UK by President Ziaur Rahman, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Apr 10 1980 Jul 25 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 78
PREM19/143 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1980 Nov 6 2010 Dec 30 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/144 Civil Service (Pay and Pensions: reports by Government Actuary’s Department and Civil Service Pay Research Unit) 1979 May 17 1980 May 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 144
PREM19/145 Civil Service (Proposal to close Public Record Office research room in Chancery Lane) 1980 Feb 14 1980 Apr 22 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 23
PREM19/146 Civil Service (Cabinet Office Whitley Council request for meeting, concerning pay, with Prime Minister) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Dec 3 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 18
PREM19/147 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1980 Apr 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/148 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 2) 1980 Apr 10 1980 Apr 23 2010 Dec 30 Secret 234
PREM19/149 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 3) 1980 Apr 24 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 143
PREM19/150 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 4) 1980 May 8 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 222

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