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 descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2487 Security (Correspondence with Gavin Strong MP concerning Archibald and Jane Williams) 1988 Feb 19 1988 Mar 15 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2488 Security (Correspondence with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Butler) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2497 Security (Correspondence with Members of Parliament) 1988 Apr 12 1988 Apr 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1375 Security (Custody contacts of persons accused of security offences, following arrest of Security Service officer Michael Bettaney) 1984 May 1 1984 Jul 13 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/1389 Security (Distribution of intelligence reports and assessments) 1979 May 14 1984 Nov 14 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2489 Security (Distribution of the Prime Minister's diary) 1981 May 13 1988 May 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1131 Security (Evacuation from Iran) 1982 Jul 1 1983 Mar 1 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/915 Security (Fire precautions at Chequers; fire in telecommunications room, September 1982) 1978 Feb 23 1982 Sep 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 59
PREM19/1380 Security (Forged recording of telephone conversation between Prime Minister and President Reagan during Falklands campaign) 1983 May 25 1984 Apr 6 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/907 Security (German occupation of the Channel Islands: allegations by Solomon Steckoll against Channel Islands officials) 1980 Sep 24 1982 Mar 11 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 27
PREM19/2484 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing at) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1988 May 27 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
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
PREM19/1388 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 2) 1984 Feb 6 1984 Feb 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1620 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing; unionisation) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 2 1985 Apr 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1630 Security (Hijacking of an Air Tanzania Boeing 737 by Tanzanian dissidents: surrender at Stansted Airport, 28 February 1982) 1982 Feb 28 1985 Nov 19 2014 Dec 30

Pages