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 releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2036 China (UK/Chinese relations) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jun 19 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2275 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 4) 1985 Nov 6 1988 Jan 27 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2549 Syria (Internal situation: UK/Syrian relations; Syrian involvement in the Hindawi affair and other terrorist activities; diplomatic and commercial measures by UK, USA, Canada, and European Community states) 1979 May 7 1987 Jul 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2507 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 8) 1987 Jul 2 1987 Sep 22 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/607 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; understandings between the USA and UK on use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 2) 1980 Apr 29 1981 Mar 9 Retained Unknown
PREM19/918 Security (Activities of Leo Long) 1981 Nov 2 1982 Mar 23 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/1139 South Africa (Prime Minister's talk with Tiny Rowland, Chief Executive of Lonrho, about Namibia and Angola) 1982 Jan 29 1982 Feb 25 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/1170 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 13) 1983 Mar 18 1984 Jan 23 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/954 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 27 1983 Mar 12 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/1183 Defence (Intelligence gathering operations) (Part 2) 1984 Oct 7 1984 Dec 6 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/908 Security (Information provided to Sunday Times by a former Security Service officer) 1982 Jan 24 1982 Jan 25 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/1189 Defence (Correspondence from Professor R.V. Jones) 1982 Jun 14 1984 Sep 5 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/911 Security (Provisional IRA: acquisition of weapons) 1982 Aug 26 1982 Sep 7 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/1129 Security (Publication of book containing accounts of National Security Agency) 1982 Mar 14 1983 May 5 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/912 Security ('Doomsday Minus Four' by Larry Clark) 1982 Jan 14 1982 Jan 15 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown

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