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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1917 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Feb 4 1986 Dec 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1915 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Italy for Anglo-Italian Summit, Florence, March 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 May 9 1986 Apr 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1909 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Lille, France, January 1986: Anglo-French Summit on the Channel Fixed Link; administrative arrangements) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Jan 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1908 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, April 1985: administrative arrangements) (part 2) 1985 Apr 4 1986 Jan 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1910 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Sep 16 1986 Oct 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2816 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris to attend the Economic Summit, July 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 May 31 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1911 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea and to Japan for Tokyo Economic Summit, May 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Jul 14 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/3132 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, September 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Oct 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1913 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to The Hague for European Council meeting, June 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Apr 11 1986 Jul 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3147 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, June 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Oct 6 1990 Jun 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1919 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, USA, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Jul 2 1986 Dec 8 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1900 Prime Minister (Allegations by Mail on Sunday newspaper of Prime Minister's involvement in share-dealing whilst in office) 1986 Mar 24 1986 May 29 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1352 Prime Minister (Allegations by Paddy Ashdown MP about Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations against British companies in the computer technology field allegedly embargo-breaking) 1984 May 9 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1105 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 4 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 309
PREM19/1106 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO); meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 2 1983 Mar 27 2013 Aug 1 Secret 176

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