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 classification Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/914 Security (Concern over leakages of official information to journalists Peter Hennessy and Peter Stothard) 1981 Jun 1 1981 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 7
PREM19/915 Security (Fire precautions at Chequers; fire in telecommunications room, September 1982) 1978 Feb 23 1982 Sep 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 59
PREM19/916 Security (Resignation of Commander Michael Trestrail, Queen's Police Officer; homosexual relationship with male prostitute; investigation by Lord Bridge of Harwich into security aspects) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Nov 25 2013 Nov 20 Secret 82
PREM19/917 Security (Security at GCHQ: representations from Nicholas Edwards MP; untimely deaths of two GCHQ employees (Jack Wolfenden in an aircraft accident) and Ernest Peter Brockway (suspected suicide); question of a 'radio ham' who lived for 11 years with a translator at GCHQ) 1982 Nov 23 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 16
PREM19/919 Security (Security at Chequers; reports on break-in (September 1966); mishandled mail (December 1972); Territorial Army exercise (June 1973); low-flying over Chequers (February 1974)) 1966 Oct 7 1982 Oct 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 23
PREM19/920 Social services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1980 Jan 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 79
PREM19/921 Social services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 22 1981 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 176
PREM19/922 Social services (Employers' statutory sick pay scheme) 1979 Dec 6 1981 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 85
PREM19/923 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1980 Sep 8 1982 Oct 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 212
PREM19/924 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit agreement; uranium enrichment contract; grain sales; controls on strategic exports) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 27 1982 Mar 22 2012 Dec 28 Secret 235
PREM19/942 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 21 1982 Apr 30 2012 Dec 28 14 Confidential 256
PREM19/943 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 227
PREM19/959 Belize (Future of Belize) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1982 May 4 2013 Aug 1 Secret 252
PREM19/962 China (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong & Japan, September 1982: policy) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 13 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 186
PREM19/972 Defence (Briefing on military capabilities of Warsaw Pact) 1979 May 21 1983 Jan 19 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 25

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