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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/212 Defence (Arms control) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 4 Ends: 1979 Jun 15 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 199
PREM19/620 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 9) Begins: 1982 Apr 20 Ends: 1982 Apr 22 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 258
PREM19/1273 India (UK/Indian relations) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Nov 22 Ends: 1984 Feb 27 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 288
PREM19/3655 Disasters (Attack on Korean Airlines Boeing 747 by a Soviet fighter plane, 1 September 1983) Begins: 1983 Sep 1 Ends: 1983 Nov 1 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 194
PREM19/653 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 11) Begins: 1982 Oct 1 Ends: 1982 Dec 23 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 146
PREM19/1058 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 9) Begins: 1983 Oct 1 Ends: 1983 Oct 31 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 322
PREM19/3208 USA (Prime Minister's visits to the USA) (Part 10) Begins: 1990 Sep 21 Ends: 1990 Dec 28 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 175
PREM19/1182 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 4) Begins: 1983 Sep 21 Ends: 1984 Jun 29 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 369
PREM19/1495 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 5) Begins: 1985 Jul 31 Ends: 1985 Nov 29 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 424
PREM19/655 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): general correspondence) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 Jul 6 Ends: 1982 Oct 28 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 4 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 273
PREM19/3756 Falkland Islands (Future administration of the Falkland Islands) Begins: 1983 Oct 1 Ends: 1992 Jul 13 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 275
PREM19/1965 South Africa (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 8) Begins: 1985 Nov 1 Ends: 1986 Feb 28 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 459
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) Begins: 1982 Dec 1 Ends: 1983 Oct 28 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 308
PREM19/1496 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) Begins: 1984 Dec 13 Ends: 1985 Mar 21 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 334
PREM19/685 Defence (Supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU)) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jul 3 Ends: 1982 Jun 16 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 137

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