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 Title Begins Ends Date of releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/358 Security (Article by Duncan Campbell in New Statesman on US National Security Agency (NSA) activities at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Jul 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 11
PREM19/235 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 178
PREM19/203 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 3) 1979 Nov 5 1980 Feb 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 264
PREM19/296 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 3) 1980 May 13 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 275
PREM19/171 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 4) 1979 Oct 12 1980 Jan 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/81 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 27 1979 Sep 28 2010 Nov 10 3 Secret 184
PREM19/245 Government Machinery (Review of non-departmental public bodies (quangos): report by Sir Leo Pliatzky) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 250
PREM19/48 Energy (Nuclear power plant industry 1979 May 29 1979 Aug 14 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 114
PREM19/16 Defence (Anglo-German offset agreement) 1979 Jul 5 1979 Nov 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 8
PREM19/109 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 4) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Aug 9 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 226
PREM19/77 Iran (Internal situation, including hostage crisis) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 11 1979 Dec 22 2009 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/49 Energy (UK/Australia nuclear safeguards agreement) 1979 Jun 27 1979 Jul 12 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/17 Defence (Accidental US nuclear alert) 1979 Nov 10 1979 Nov 16 2009 Dec 30 Secret 9
PREM19/110 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 5) 1979 Aug 9 1979 Aug 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 355
PREM19/78 Iran (Jewish community - correspondence with President Carter) 1979 May 15 1979 May 24 2009 Dec 30 Secret 23

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