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 descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
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
PREM19/3581 Tunisia (Internal situation: UK/Tunisia relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1980 Feb 1 1991 Jun 11 2017 Jul 20 1 Confidential 176
PREM19/2789 Netherlands (Visits to UK by Queen Beatrix, November 1982 and January 1989) 1981 Dec 15 1989 Jan 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3214 Aerospace (Aerospace policy: future and structure of British Airways; merger of British Airways and British Caledonian; airports in the South East; British Aerospace (BAe)) (Part 6) 1987 Jan 6 1991 Feb 18 2017 Jul 20 Secret 285
PREM19/3419 Kuwait (Visits of the Amir of Kuwait: visits of Shaikh Saad, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Kuwait) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 21 1991 Oct 5 2017 Jul 20 8 Secret 201
PREM19/2916 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite: satellite television; Sky Television) (Part 7) 1988 Jul 1 1990 Nov 12 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 127
PREM19/3481 Prime Minister (Messages of congratulations from Heads of Government to John Major MP upon his appointment as Prime Minister) 1990 Nov 27 1991 Feb 21 2017 Jul 20 Restricted 280
PREM19/3059 Japan (Visits of Noboru Takeshita, Prime Minister of Japan (May 1988) and his successor Toshiki Kaifu (January 1990)) (Part 2) 1987 Dec 11 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3321 European Policy (European Council meeting, Rome, December 1990) (Part 38) 1990 Nov 8 1991 Apr 11 2017 Jul 20 1 Secret 802
PREM19/2612 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: major Ministry of Defence (MOD) procurement projects; new tank for the Army) (Part 7) 1988 Nov 11 1989 Dec 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3136 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Aspen, Colorado, USA, August 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Dec 20 1990 Oct 2 2017 Jul 20 3 Confidential 236
PREM19/3376 Home Affairs (The problem of dangerous dogs) (Part 1) 1989 Jun 8 1991 Mar 29 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 264
PREM19/3056 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 5 1990 Feb 23 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 245
PREM19/3580 Treasury (Review of policy on film finance: Prime Minister's seminar for the British film industry, 15 June 1990)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1990 Jul 1 1991 Nov 14 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 64
PREM19/2788 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 3) 1988 Dec 6 1989 Jun 9 2017 Jul 20

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