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
PREM19/1659 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1985) (Part 4B) 1985 Feb 13 1985 Mar 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1661 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1985) 1985 Jul 8 1985 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 278
PREM19/2566 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Jun 12 1987 Jul 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2567 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1987) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 24 1987 Nov 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1153 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, September 1983) (Part 3) 1983 Aug 31 1983 Oct 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 198
PREM19/944 USA (Relations between the UK and USA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Apr 13 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 205
PREM19/1404 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 2) 1982 May 10 1984 Feb 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1656 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 3) 1984 Feb 9 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2568 USA (UK/USA relations) 1986 Jun 1 1987 Jun 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1152 USA (United States foreign policy; nuclear non-proliferation) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 21 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Secret 339
PREM19/2570 USA (Visit to UK by Congressman James Wright, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, July 1988) 1988 Mar 4 1988 Jul 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1403 USA (Visit to UK by Donald Rumsfeld, President Reagan’s special Middle East envoy: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Jan 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/381 USA (Visit to UK by Dr Harold Brown, US Secretary of Defense, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 May 28 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 74
PREM19/1149 USA (Visit to UK by Edwin Meese, Counsellor to President Reagan: meeting with Prime Minister, May 1983) 1983 Apr 18 1983 May 19 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 56
PREM19/1652 USA (Visit to UK by Elizabeth Dole, US Secretary of Transportation: call on Prime Minister, May 1) 1983 Aug 29 1985 May 17 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 19

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