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
PREM19/2790 New Zealand (Visits to the UK of New Zealand Leaders of the Opposition: David Lange and Jim Bolger) 1984 Jan 9 1989 Aug 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1587 New Zealand (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and David Lange) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1985 Mar 4 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 283
PREM19/1588 New Zealand (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and David Lange: briefs) (Part 1 annex) 1979 May 14 1985 Mar 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2368 Nigeria (Attempted abduction of former Minister Umani Dikko) 1984 Jul 5 1987 Jun 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2369 Nigeria (Prime Minister's visit to Nigeria, January 1987) 1987 Dec 10 1988 Apr 20 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1876 Norway (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986) 1982 Nov 16 1986 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/858 Oman (Prime Minister's visit to Oman, April 1981: follow-up action; military assistance and training charges; aid; credit for defence equipment) 1981 Apr 24 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 76
PREM19/1589 Oman (UK policy: relations with Oman) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1985 Jun 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/319 Overseas Aid (Aid Policy Review: 1979-1980 and 1980-1981 aid programmes) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1980 Feb 20 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 188
PREM19/859 Overseas aid (Development policy; aid framework 1981-1982 to 1983-1984; UK contribution to International Development Association) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 19 1982 Mar 31 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 287
PREM19/1096 Overseas aid (Development policy; aid framework for 1981-1982 to 1983-1984; UK contribution to International Development Association) (Part 3) 1982 Apr 2 1983 Dec 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 304
PREM19/1591 Overseas Aid (Overseas aid policy: International Development Association (IDA)) (Part 4) 1984 Jan 4 1985 Jun 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1590 Overseas Aid (Renegotiation of Lome Convention: closure of Tate and Lyle sugar refinery in Liverpool) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 1 1985 Jan 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 175
PREM19/553 Overseas aid (Renegotiation of Lome Convention; closure of Tate and Lyle refinery in Liverpool; effect on African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar suppliers) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/860 Pakistan (Prime Minister's visit to Pakistan, October 1981) 1981 Sep 9 1982 Jan 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 112

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