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 Titlesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/360 Security (Alleged connection between Czech Intelligence Service and John Stonehouse) Begins: 1980 Jul 7 Ends: 1980 Oct 6 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 11
PREM19/358 Security (Article by Duncan Campbell in New Statesman on US National Security Agency (NSA) activities at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire) Begins: 1980 Jul 18 Ends: 1980 Jul 28 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 11
PREM19/2503 Security (Case of Geoffrey Arthur Prime) Begins: 1983 Jul 1 Ends: 1987 Aug 11 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1136 Security (Case of Geoffrey Prime, former member of Government Communications Headquarters) Begins: 1982 Jun 3 Ends: 1983 Jun 30 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/586 Security (Case of Howard Marks) Begins: 1979 Jul 4 Ends: 1981 Nov 24 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2513 Security (Case of Michael Bettaney and the ensuing review of the Security Service) Begins: 1986 Jun 2 Ends: 1988 Nov 8 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/361 Security (Case of Miss Lamble) Begins: 1979 Dec 7 Ends: 1980 Jan 4 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Unknown
PREM19/906 Security (Case of Professor Hugh Hambleton, Canadian citizen and self-confessed Soviet spy) Begins: 1980 Jun 26 Ends: 1982 Dec 7 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 53
PREM19/1374 Security (Circumstances surrounding death of a Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) employee) Begins: 1984 Apr 4 Ends: 1984 Sep 26 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/914 Security (Concern over leakages of official information to journalists Peter Hennessy and Peter Stothard) Begins: 1981 Jun 1 Ends: 1981 Jun 5 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 7
PREM19/1628 Security (Contingency arrangements for dealing with terrorist incidents) Begins: 1979 Jun 8 Ends: 1985 Nov 21 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 25
PREM19/2486 Security (Correspondence with Anthony Steven Divall) Begins: 1988 May 31 Ends: 1988 Oct 4 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2487 Security (Correspondence with Gavin Strong MP concerning Archibald and Jane Williams) Begins: 1988 Feb 19 Ends: 1988 Mar 15 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2488 Security (Correspondence with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Butler) Begins: 1983 Apr 15 Ends: 1988 Mar 30 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2497 Security (Correspondence with Members of Parliament) Begins: 1988 Apr 12 Ends: 1988 Apr 22 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4

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