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
PREM19/924 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit agreement; uranium enrichment contract; grain sales; controls on strategic exports) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Sep 27 Ends: 1982 Mar 22 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Secret Pages: 235
PREM19/925 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit restrictions; United States sanctions against Siberian pipeline - impact on John Brown Engineering and other European companies; controls on strategic exports) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 Apr 19 Ends: 1982 Nov 11 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Secret Pages: 276
PREM19/1647 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations) (Part 4) Begins: 1985 Jan 3 Ends: 1985 Oct 25 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 341
PREM19/2542 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 10) Begins: 1988 Jan 1 Ends: 1988 Jun 29 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2538 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 6) Begins: 1986 Jun 2 Ends: 1987 Jan 30 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2539 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 7) Begins: 1987 Feb 3 Ends: 1987 Apr 21 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2540 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 8) Begins: 1987 May 5 Ends: 1987 Oct 30 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2541 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 9) Begins: 1987 Nov 2 Ends: 1987 Dec 30 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2870 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by Dr Andrei Sakharov: meeting with the Prime Minister, 23 June 1989) Begins: 1989 Apr 26 Ends: 1989 Jun 23 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2871 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by General Dimitri Yazov, Soviet Defence Minister, July 1989) Begins: 1989 Jun 16 Ends: 1989 Aug 1 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2867 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Soviet Deputy Prime Ministers: Leonid Konstandov, Vladimir Kamentsev and Aleksandra Biryukova) Begins: 1983 Sep 23 Ends: 1989 Jul 26 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2545 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 1) Begins: 1987 Nov 20 Ends: 1988 Oct 30 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/373 Spain (EEC fishing licences for Spanish fishermen) Begins: 1980 Jan 28 Ends: 1980 Feb 8 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 18
PREM19/377 Sport (Sporting relations with South Africa) Begins: 1979 Aug 30 Ends: 1980 Feb 28 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 173
PREM19/374 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Jan 8 Ends: 1980 Mar 6 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 251

Pages

Pages