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
PREM19/1617 Royal Family (Queen's visit to army units in Germany, May 1984: possible threat from Irish terrorism) 1984 May 16 1984 May 21 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 5
PREM19/1367 Royal family (Relations between the media and members of the Royal Family; possible legal measures to prevent harassment) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Jan 18 Retained Retained
PREM19/1123 Royal family (Royal visits by Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, USA, and Canada [also Belize] February-March 1983) 1982 Jun 4 1983 Jan 31 2014 Feb 14 5 Secret 46
PREM19/1124 Royal family (Royal visits to Kenya, India, and Bangladesh) 1983 Feb 23 1983 Jul 8 2013 Nov 20 Confidential 14
PREM19/118 Royal family (Security of HMQ during visit to Lusaka CHOGM) 1979 May 9 1979 Jul 27 Temporarily Retained by Department Unknown
PREM19/2473 Royal Family (The Prince of Wales' Special Projects Unit) 1987 Jul 29 1987 Sep 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1366 Royal family (Visit by the Queen to Liverpool, May 1984) 1984 Mar 12 1984 May 14 2032 Jan 1 Retained
PREM19/354 Royal Family (Visit to France by Prince Charles, July 1980) 1980 Apr 15 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 8
PREM19/1122 Royal family (Visit to Zimbabwe by Duke of Edinburgh, May 1983) 1983 Jan 26 1983 Jan 31 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 5
PREM19/2474 Royal Family (Visits by the Queen to security services) 1980 Nov 4 1988 Apr 28 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/581 Royal family (Visits to Northern Ireland by Princess Alexandra, June 1979 and June 1981) 1979 May 14 1981 May 29 2011 Dec 30 3 Secret 9
PREM19/1121 Royal family (Visits to Northern Ireland by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester) 1981 Jun 12 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 Secret 9
PREM19/2833 Royal Family (Visits to Northern Ireland by the Duke and Duchess of Kent) 1980 Mar 31 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2475 Saudi Arabia (Internal situation: relations with UK) 1986 May 1 1987 Feb 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1126 Saudi Arabia (Saudi/UK relations; internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 9 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 7 Secret 342

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