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
PREM19/1622 Security (Judgement by European Court of Human Rights on Malone case: proposed legislation on interception of communications) Begins: 1980 Sep 29 Ends: 1984 Jul 23 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/913 Security (Labour Party discussion document on the Security Services) Begins: 1981 Feb 6 Ends: 1982 Feb 28 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Secret Pages: 13
PREM19/362 Security (Leak in Guardian and Time Out of Ministerial discussion on civil nuclear power programme) Begins: 1979 Dec 6 Ends: 1980 Mar 24 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 23
PREM19/356 Security (Leak of documents on defence expenditure to Press Association) Begins: 1980 Oct 23 Ends: 1980 Dec 17 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 84
PREM19/1626 Security (Leak of information on sinking of Argentine warship General Belgrano in 1982 to Tam Dalyell MP: confession and trial of Clive Ponting) (Part 1) Begins: 1984 Aug 10 Ends: 1985 Feb 2 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 294
PREM19/595 Security (Leak to 'The Times' of Cabinet proceedings on public expenditure) Begins: 1981 Oct 21 Ends: 1981 Oct 28 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 18
PREM19/1636 Security (Leak to press on expulsion of Soviet Embassy officials in April 1985) Begins: 1985 Apr 18 Ends: 1985 Jun 17 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2849 Security (Leak to The Observer relating to Westland plc) Begins: 1985 Dec 24 Ends: 1989 Jun 16 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/593 Security (Leaks about Civil Contingencies Unit (CCU) to Peter Hennessy of 'The Times'; investigation) Begins: 1980 Jul 17 Ends: 1981 Feb 19 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 36
PREM19/2493 Security (Links between Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other terrorist organisations: People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine operations in London) Begins: 1979 Sep 28 Ends: 1988 Mar 17 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2516 Security (Lord and Lady Rothschild) Begins: 1987 Jun 8 Ends: 1987 Jul 17 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/589 Security (Lord Kagan) Begins: 1980 Dec 15 Ends: 1981 Apr 16 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Secret Pages: 19
PREM19/2494 Security (Ministerial personal protection: security arrangements for overnight parking of Ministers' cars: VIP security) Begins: 1979 Aug 28 Ends: 1987 Jun 12 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2495 Security (Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches) (Part 1) Begins: 1985 Mar 26 Ends: 1987 Jun 30 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2496 Security (Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches) (Part 2) Begins: 1987 Jul 2 Ends: 1988 Dec 22 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4

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