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 ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/359 Security (Intelligence liaison) 1980 Jul 28 1980 Aug 4 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2395 Prime Minister (Cementation contract: Mark Thatcher and the Omanis) (Part 1) 1981 May 4 1988 Mar 9 Retained Closed for 65 years
PREM19/686 Defence (Intelligence gathering operations) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Oct 6 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2231 Hong Kong (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)) 1985 Aug 28 1987 Jul 21 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/2545 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 20 1988 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2503 Security (Case of Geoffrey Arthur Prime) 1983 Jul 1 1987 Aug 11 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/361 Security (Case of Miss Lamble) 1979 Dec 7 1980 Jan 4 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2396 Prime Minister (Cementation contract: Mark Thatcher and the Omanis) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 15 1988 Mar 19 Retained Closed for 65 years
PREM19/2241 Immigration (Immigration Rules) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 7 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1387 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 10 1984 Feb 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2546 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 2) 1988 Nov 10 1988 Dec 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2504 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 8 1987 Mar 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/363 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 7 1980 Mar 19 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2074 Defence (Zircon satellite project) (Part 1) 1983 Apr 27 1987 Feb 27 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2397 Prime Minister (Request by Electronic Data Systems to employ Mark Thatcher) 1987 Feb 1 1987 Feb 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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