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 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.

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.

 

Link to full file File namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1151 USA (Visit to UK by Kenneth Dam, US Deputy Secretary of State; discussion of US/UK relations and foreign policy issues) 1983 Nov 3 1983 Nov 7 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 74
PREM19/382 USA (Visit to UK by Major General George J Keegan Jr, US Air Force (retired), March 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Feb 20 1980 Jun 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/942 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 21 1982 Apr 30 2012 Dec 28 14 Confidential 256
PREM19/943 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 227
PREM19/2569 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1988) 1984 Jun 1 1988 Sep 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1402 USA (Visit to UK by US Ambassador to the United Nations, Mrs Jeane Kirkpatrick, April 1984: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Mar 23 1984 Oct 16 2014 Jan 3 Secret 67
PREM19/1150 USA (Visits by Senator Jesse Helms and John Carbaugh; discussion of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe sanctions and US political matters) 1979 Jun 7 1983 Jul 23 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 97
PREM19/2571 USA (Visits to UK by Ambassador Paul Nitze, United States Special Adviser on Arms Control) 1983 Jun 28 1987 Feb 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1653 USA (Visits to UK by Arthur Burns, former Chairman of Federal Reserve Board: meeting with Prime Minister, September 1979) 1979 Aug 13 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 61
PREM19/383 USA (Visits to UK by Cyrus Vance, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 May 14 1980 Feb 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/1655 USA (Visits to UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1982 Apr 9 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2002 Vanuatu (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Father Walter Lini: calls on the Prime Minister, November 1981, July 1983 and February 1986) 1981 Sep 16 1986 Feb 24 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/128 Vatican (Possible papal visit to Ireland, north & south) 1979 Jul 10 1979 Oct 1 2009 Dec 30 1 Confidential 67
PREM19/602 Vatican (Possible visit to UK by the Pope in 1982) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 26 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 23 Confidential 187
PREM19/945 Vatican (Vatican delegation to Heads of State about nuclear weapons; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Jan 29 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 59

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