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 PM's 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.

Chancellor of the Exchequer's Private Office files, 1979-89

1979-89: Chancellor's Private Office files [links to hundreds of digitised files from the Chancellorships of Sir Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson]

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 namesort ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1128 Security (Possibility of secure telephone link between Washington, London, Paris and Bonn) 1979 Oct 29 1983 Oct 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 28
PREM19/1625 Security (Policy on interception: legislation) (Part 4) 1975 Oct 31 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/590 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 3) 1980 Apr 18 1981 Oct 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/364 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Apr 11 Retained Unknown
PREM19/363 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 7 1980 Mar 19 Retained Unknown
PREM19/592 Security (Panorama programme on the KGB (Soviet Committee for State Security)) 1981 Apr 14 1981 Oct 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 8
PREM19/1382 Security (Oleg Bitov, Soviet defector; Bitov's return to Moscow) 1983 Oct 21 1984 Sep 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2496 Security (Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 2 1988 Dec 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2495 Security (Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 26 1987 Jun 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2494 Security (Ministerial personal protection: security arrangements for overnight parking of Ministers' cars: VIP security) 1979 Aug 28 1987 Jun 12 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/589 Security (Lord Kagan) 1980 Dec 15 1981 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 19
PREM19/2516 Security (Lord and Lady Rothschild) 1987 Jun 8 1987 Jul 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2493 Security (Links between Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other terrorist organisations: People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine operations in London) 1979 Sep 28 1988 Mar 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1940 Security (Letter to Prime Minister from Dr Anatoly Fedoseyev about the economy) 1986 Jan 22 1986 Feb 17 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/593 Security (Leaks about Civil Contingencies Unit (CCU) to Peter Hennessy of 'The Times'; investigation) 1980 Jul 17 1981 Feb 19 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 36

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