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
PREM19/3660 Downing Street (Physical security aspects of Downing Street) (Part 7) 1988 Apr 5 1992 Jul 2 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3871 Pakistan (Internal situation: UK/Pakistan relations) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/118 Royal family (Security of HMQ during visit to Lusaka CHOGM) 1979 May 9 1979 Jul 27 Temporarily Retained by Department Unknown
PREM19/3072 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle East countries) (Part 4) 1984 Nov 8 1990 Aug 31 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3074 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 21) 1990 Aug 2 1990 Aug 6 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3075 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 22) 1990 Aug 7 1990 Aug 12 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3082 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 29) 1990 Sep 14 1990 Sep 29 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3083 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 30) 1990 Sep 26 1990 Oct 8 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3078 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 25) 1990 Aug 24 1990 Aug 29 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3416 Jordan ​​​​​​​(UK/Jordanian relations)(Part 2) 1986 Mar 16 1990 Nov 30 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3532 Security ​​​​​​​(Security of the Secret Service)​​​​​​​ (Part 14) 1990 May 1 1991 Jun 27 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3944 Security (The Bloch Affair) 1989 Jul 25 1992 Sep 2 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3531 Security ​​​​​​​(Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Jan 10 1991 Apr 26 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3947 Security (Review of the use of vetting) 1979 Nov 21 1992 Sep 17 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3529 Security ​​​​​​​(Product of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC)) 1984 Jun 22 1991 Mar 13 Retained Under Sec 3.4

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