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 release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/1530 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 17) 1984 Sep 26 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 20 Secret 291
PREM19/3181 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; Lithuanian declaration of independence) (Part 15) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30 20 Top Secret Cab One 307
PREM19/3211 USA (United States foreign policy: USA/European relations) (Part 3) 1987 Jan 9 1990 Mar 22 2017 Jul 20 22 Top Secret Cab One 357
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
PREM19/1429 Civil Service (Assassination and death in service: policy on compensation for civil servants' families) 1984 May 21 1985 Nov 20 2014 Dec 30 24 Confidential 110
PREM19/3780 Government Machinery (Special Political Advisers: appointments) (Part 5) 1989 Sep 4 1992 Apr 30 2017 Dec 29 26 Confidential 344
PREM19/2442 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya and Nigeria, January 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Oct 28 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21 27 Secret 270
PREM19/1536 (UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab; activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 4 1985 May 22 2014 Dec 30 30 Secret 404
PREM19/1446 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 5) 1985 Jan 2 1985 Oct 25 2015 Jul 16 30 Secret 357
PREM19/1361 Prime Minister tours abroad (G7 Summit - London; 40th anniversary of D-Day: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1982 Nov 26 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 31 Secret 403
PREM19/2774 Ministers (Rules governing travel by Ministers) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 6 1989 Sep 29 2017 Jul 20 33 Confidential 279
PREM19/898 Royal family (Prime Minister's Audiences with the Queen) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Feb 9 2013 Dec 6 147 Unclassified 105

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