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 Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/1674 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 40) Begins: 1985 May 2 Ends: 1986 Jun 24 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 17 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 274
PREM19/1497 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) Begins: 1985 Apr 1 Ends: 1985 Apr 4 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 9 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 146
PREM19/3651 Defence (Prime Minister's meeting with Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, October 1986: memorandum on 'The Defence of Europe in the Nuclear Age') Begins: 1986 Sep 26 Ends: 1987 Jan 20 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 45
PREM19/2529 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visit to Soviet Union, March-April 1987) (Part 1) Begins: 1987 Jan 5 Ends: 1987 Mar 31 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 4 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 603
PREM19/657 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 Jan 7 Ends: 1982 Apr 2 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 119
PREM19/1404 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 May 10 Ends: 1984 Feb 28 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 305
PREM19/2890 USA (Visits to UK by President Bush, May-June 1989 and July 1991) (Part 4) Begins: 1989 Mar 28 Ends: 1991 Aug 12 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 165
PREM19/471 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Schmidt in Bonn, November 1980 and November 1981: Anglo-German Summits) (Part 2) Begins: 1980 Jun 4 Ends: 1981 Nov 18 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 338
PREM19/813 Iraq (Internal situation; Iran-Iraq War; defence issues in the Persian Gulf) (Part 2) Begins: 1980 Sep 30 Ends: 1982 Jun 10 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 317
PREM19/1063 Industrial policy (Future of Times newspapers: sale by Thomson Organisation; purchase by Rupert Murdoch's News International) Begins: 1979 Oct 16 Ends: 1983 Jul 18 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 111
PREM19/1844 Defence (Project Moonflower) Begins: 1986 Feb 3 Ends: 1986 Dec 9 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 14
PREM19/3942 Security (Security of the Secret Service: Professor Anthony Blunt: terms of reference of the Home Affairs Select Committee with regard to the Security Service )(Part 2) Begins: 1979 Nov 28 Ends: 1992 Feb 4 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 186
PREM19/875 Posts and telecommunications (Future of Post Office: liberalisation of telecommunications monopoly; British Telecom's investment programme; BT and postal tariff increases) (Part 3) Begins: 1981 Mar 4 Ends: 1982 Mar 16 Date of release: 2013 Sep 24 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 282
PREM19/3081 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 28) Begins: 1990 Sep 6 Ends: 1990 Sep 13 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 328
PREM19/3439 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 34) Begins: 1990 Nov 18 Ends: 1990 Dec 6 Date of release: Date of release: 2018 Jul 24 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Top Secret - Cab One Pages: 298

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