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
PREM19/2590 Austria (Visits to the UK by Austrian Foreign Ministers: Erwin Lanc (November 1983) and Alois Mock (December 1989)) 1983 Sep 2 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 36
PREM19/3612 Austria ​​​​​​​(Visits to the UK by Chancellor Kreisky and his successor Chancellor Vranitsky) 1980 Jun 27 1992 Oct 12 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2021 Bahrain (UK/Bahraini relations) ​​​​​​​(Part 1) 1979 Jun 26 1987 Jul 16 2016 Dec 30 3 Secret 264
PREM19/3613 Bahrain (Visit to the UK by the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Shaikh Khalifa, September 1980) 1980 May 2 1992 Aug 20 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2912 Bangladesh (Visit to UK by General Ershad, Chief Martial Law Administrator, June 1982: visit by President Ershad, February 1989; Prime Minister's meeting with Foreign Minister, Anisul Islam Mahmud, June 1990) 1982 Jun 7 1990 Oct 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3221 Bangladesh ​​​​​​​(UK/Bangladesh relations; aid to Bangladesh; internal situation) 1979 May 5 1991 Feb 18 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3614 Barbados (​​​​​​​Internal situation: UK/Barbados relations) 1981 Jun 24 1992 Mar 2 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3220 Barbados ​​​​​​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by Prime Ministers of Barbados, Tom Adams and his successor Erskine Sandiford) 1980 Apr 22 1991 Jun 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3615 Belgium (Visits to the UK by Belgian Prime Ministers, Wilfried Mertens and Jean-Luc Dehaene) 1979 Jun 29 1992 Jun 22 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3222 Belize ​​​​​​​(Dispute with Guatemala)(Part 3) 1983 Mar 1 1991 Sep 2 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2913 Bermuda (Prime Minister's visit to Bermuda, April 1990: meeting with George H W Bush, President of the USA) (Part 1) 1990 Apr 4 1990 Aug 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2595 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 9) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3618 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: television licence fees; future of the BBC) (Part 12) 1990 Jul 2 1992 Aug 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3212 Broadcasting (Conservative Central Office media monitoring: BBC coverage of the American bombing raid on Libya, 15 April 1986) (Part 3 annex) 1986 Sep 20 1986 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2916 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite: satellite television; Sky Television) (Part 7) 1988 Jul 1 1990 Nov 12 2017 Jul 20

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