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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3931 Saudi Arabia (Visits to the UK by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal)​​​​​​​(Part 16) 1982 Jun 7 1992 Aug 3 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3234 China ​​​​​​​(UK/Chinese relations)(Part 5) 1987 May 22 1991 Feb 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3929 Saudi Arabia UK/Saudi relations: internal situation (Part 5) 1990 Apr 6 1992 Jun 29 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3551 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(New Russian Embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens: Operation Brunch; proposed site for Ambassador's residence in Moscow)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1979 Dec 1 1991 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3456 Middle East ​​​​​​​(Conclusions of the Ad Hoc Group on the Gulf (AHGG)) 1990 Nov 5 1991 Feb 14 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3609 Angola Internal situation: UK/Angola relations​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1988 Sep 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3439 Middle East ​​​​​​​(Situation in the Middle East: Gulf War)(Part 34) 1990 Nov 18 1990 Dec 6 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3918 Royal Family Marriage of Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer 1981 Jan 1 1992 Jun 24 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3989 Yugoslavia (Internal situation: UK/Yugoslavia relations)(Part 2) 1988 Oct 21 1991 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3917 Royal Family Marriage and separation of Prince Andrew 1986 Mar 1 1992 Mar 21 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3825 Ireland Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland (Part 6) 1990 Oct 1 1992 Feb 6 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3386 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 24) 1990 Apr 1 1991 Mar 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3436 Mauritius ​​​(UK/Mauritius relations) (Part 1) 1982 Jun 1 1991 Oct 10 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/287 Legal Procedure (Proposed amendment to Act of Settlement 1701) 1980 Jul 8 1980 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3222 Belize ​​​​​​​(Dispute with Guatemala)(Part 3) 1983 Mar 1 1991 Sep 2 Temporarily Retained by Department

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