Archive

Large scale document 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 ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1812 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 12) 1986 Mar 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 307
PREM19/3048 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 20) 1989 Jan 20 1990 Mar 21 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1546 Ireland (Lear Fan aircraft project at Aldergove) 1980 Feb 12 1985 Oct 15 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 72
PREM19/504 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the 'Dirty Protest') (Part 3) 1981 Apr 22 1981 May 20 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 267
PREM19/1293 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 1 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3 3 Secret 106
PREM19/1291 Ireland (European Commission of Human Rights: case of Farrell v. UK) 1979 Nov 7 1984 Aug 1 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 55
PREM19/1813 Ireland (DeLorean sports cars) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 1 1986 Jan 21 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 310
PREM19/2270 Ireland (Correspondence with Reverend William Martin Smyth MP) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Mar 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 17
PREM19/1545 Ireland (Cases of Marian Price, Dolours Rea (nee Price), Pauline McLaughlin, Robert Cardwell and the Gillespie sisters: pleas for release from imprisonment) 1980 Apr 29 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 6 Secret 96
PREM19/3824 Ireland (Brian Nelson: public interest issues and protection of intelligence sources and methods​​​​​​​) 1990 Sep 1 1992 Dec 14 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1290 Ireland (Anglo-Irish economic co-operation; supply of natural gas from Irish Republic field at Kinsale to Northern Ireland) 1979 May 10 1984 Sep 5 2014 Jan 3 Secret 209
PREM19/1543 Iraq (Visits to UK by Iraqi Minister of Trade, Hassan Ali: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 24 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 48
PREM19/1544 Iraq (Visits to UK by Iraqi Deputy Prime Ministers, Taha Ramadhan and Tariq Aziz (also Foreign Minister): meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Nov 23 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret 362
PREM19/2269 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 9) 1988 Jan 1 1988 Dec 31 2017 Jul 20 8 Top Secret 473
PREM19/2268 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 8) 1987 Sep 1 1987 Dec 18 Retained under Sec 3.4 (reconsideration in 2027)

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