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 file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/164 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 7) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/852 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; gas legislation; industrial energy policy; wage negotiations) (Part 6) 1981 Oct 13 1982 Oct 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 449
PREM19/1195 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 9) 1984 Jan 16 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 246
PREM19/1537 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland: privatisation of UniPart) (Part 8) 1984 Apr 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 308
PREM19/41 Elections (Briefing for incoming PM) 1979 May 4 1979 May 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 93
PREM19/1414 Aerospace (UK-Hong Kong air services licensing appeal: demise of Laker Airways; Hong Kong-Australia Air Services Agreement) 1980 Jun 12 1985 Oct 9 2014 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/135 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 6 1980 Jan 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 317
PREM19/1166 Angola (Internal situation; appointment of Jose Eduardo dos Santos as President; UK/Angolan relations) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1984 Mar 22 2014 Jan 3 Secret 291
PREM19/9 Commonwealth (Lusaka Heads of Government Meeting) (CHOGM) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1979 Jul 31 2009 Dec 30 3 Secret 201
PREM19/697 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 1) 1982 Aug 2 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 221
PREM19/228 European Policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with President of European Commission, Roy Jenkins) 1979 May 10 1980 Nov 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 192
PREM19/449 Economic policy (Operation Enterprise campaign: organisation of government to assist small firms) 1981 Mar 3 1981 Mar 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/1134 Security (Leak of government documents during the election campaign; investigation) 1983 May 12 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 25
PREM19/1475 Energy (Cross Channel electricity link) 1980 Jul 15 1985 Jun 17 2014 Dec 30 Secret 55
PREM19/665 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and broadcasting policy) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 2 1982 Nov 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 110

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