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.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
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
PREM19/1048 Grenada (US-led invasion) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 29 1983 Oct 27 2013 Aug 1 13 Top Secret
PREM19/953 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 35) 1983 Sep 19 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 13 Secret 347
PREM19/2432 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Nov 6 2016 Jul 21 12 Confidential 260
PREM19/2435 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, and private visit to Dallas, October 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 1 1987 Nov 18 2016 Jul 21 12 Secret 181
PREM19/2860 South Africa (UK/South Africa relations: internal situation) (Part 19) 1989 Apr 6 1989 Aug 31 2017 Jul 20 12 Top Secret 330
PREM19/1069 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 14) 1983 Aug 1 1983 Dec 13 2013 Aug 1 12 Secret 274
PREM19/2443 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, August 1988: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1988 Jan 20 1988 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 12 Confidential 189
PREM19/1267 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 16) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Sep 25 2014 Jan 3 11 Secret 415
PREM19/3085 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 32) 1990 Oct 22 1990 Oct 31 2017 Jul 20 11 Top Secret - Cab One 241
PREM19/1054 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 5) 1983 Feb 17 1983 Apr 19 2013 Aug 1 11 Top Secret 317
PREM19/2232 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 6) 1985 Jul 2 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 11 Confidential and Personal 184
PREM19/2173 Foreign Policy (East/West relations; Moscow Summit, May-June 1988, between United States President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev) (Part 8) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Nov 15 2016 Jul 21 11 Top Secret 334
PREM19/691 Defence (Replacement of Royal Air Force (RAF) communications aircraft; aircraft for Queen's Flight) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 16 1982 Nov 24 2013 Nov 20 10 Secret 254
PREM19/2935 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems) (Part 8) 1990 Jan 18 1990 Jul 30 2016 Dec 30 10 Secret UK Eyes A 182

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