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 classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1647 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations) (Part 4) 1985 Jan 3 1985 Oct 25 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 341
PREM19/1182 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 4) 1983 Sep 21 1984 Jun 29 2014 Jan 3 Top Secret 369
PREM19/1154 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; trial of air force officers on sabotage charges; sale of Hunter aircraft; British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT); status of Joshua Nkomo in UK) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Oct 28 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 308
PREM19/412 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces (TNF) in Europe; proposed basing of United States Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) in the UK) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 3 1981 Mar 10 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 106
PREM19/872 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law; possible measures to be taken against Poland and Soviet Union) (Part 6) 1982 Jan 6 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 230
PREM19/1394 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; visit to UK by Mikhail Gorbachev, member of Politburo, December 1984; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 4 1984 Dec 22 2014 Jan 3 2 Top Secret 411
PREM19/3076 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 23) 1990 Aug 13 1990 Aug 19 2017 Jul 20 15 Top Secret 349
PREM19/642 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 31) 1982 Nov 1 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 292
PREM19/3077 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 24) 1990 Aug 20 1990 Aug 23 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret 370
PREM19/159 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 4 1980 Jun 9 2012 Jun 21 Top Secret 199
PREM19/2548 Syria (Internal situation: military capability; UK/Syrian relations) 1980 Mar 14 1988 Oct 25 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2136 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; revision of report by Advisory Council on Science and Technology (ACOST) on industrial impact of Sizewell 'B' decision; extension of Joint European Torus (JET) project on nuclear fusion; disposal of UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) shareholding in National Nuclear Corporation; fast reactor programme) (Part 12) 1987 Dec 1 1988 May 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2506 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 7) 1987 Apr 3 1987 Jun 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
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

Pages