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
PREM19/1389 Security (Distribution of intelligence reports and assessments) Begins: 1979 May 14 Ends: 1984 Nov 14 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2489 Security (Distribution of the Prime Minister's diary) Begins: 1981 May 13 Ends: 1988 May 24 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1131 Security (Evacuation from Iran) Begins: 1982 Jul 1 Ends: 1983 Mar 1 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/915 Security (Fire precautions at Chequers; fire in telecommunications room, September 1982) Begins: 1978 Feb 23 Ends: 1982 Sep 20 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 59
PREM19/907 Security (German occupation of the Channel Islands: allegations by Solomon Steckoll against Channel Islands officials) Begins: 1980 Sep 24 Ends: 1982 Mar 11 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 27
PREM19/2484 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing at) (Part 5) Begins: 1986 Apr 17 Ends: 1988 May 27 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1387 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 Mar 10 Ends: 1984 Feb 9 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1388 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 2) Begins: 1984 Feb 6 Ends: 1984 Feb 29 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1620 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing; unionisation) (Part 3) Begins: 1984 Mar 2 Ends: 1985 Apr 26 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/908 Security (Information provided to Sunday Times by a former Security Service officer) Begins: 1982 Jan 24 Ends: 1982 Jan 25 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/2490 Security (Intelligence Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office: proposed appointment of the Sir Anthony Duff and his successors) Begins: 1980 Jun 18 Ends: 1988 Oct 17 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/359 Security (Intelligence liaison) Begins: 1980 Jul 28 Ends: 1980 Aug 4 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Unknown
PREM19/1135 Security (Irish Republican Socialist Party) Begins: 1983 Oct 13 Ends: 1983 Nov 7 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/1371 Security (Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain) (Part 1A) Begins: 1979 May 10 Ends: 1982 Aug 11 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1372 Security (Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain; threat to Weston supermarkets) (Part 1B) Begins: 1982 Sep 6 Ends: 1984 Feb 10 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4

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