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 ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3137 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Bermuda, April 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Mar 9 1990 Jul 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3136 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Aspen, Colorado, USA, August 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Dec 20 1990 Oct 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3141 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's possible visit to Paris to attend European Democratic Union (EDU) working dinner, February 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Feb 5 1990 Feb 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2459 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jun 8 1988 Dec 28 2016 Jul 21 10 Secret 207
PREM19/3507 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, December 1990; administrative arrangements) 1990 Nov 27 1990 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2460 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to USA and Jamaica, July 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 12 1987 Sep 4 2016 Jul 21 7 Secret 104
PREM19/2458 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 5 1988 May 12 2016 Dec 30 15 Secret 220
PREM19/2457 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Venice Economic Summit, June 1987: administrative arrangements) 1986 Oct 30 1987 Aug 4 2016 Jul 21 6 Secret 85
PREM19/2822 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the United Nations and Washington, November 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Sep 14 1989 Dec 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2456 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, March-April 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 2 1987 Sep 7 2016 Jul 21 Restricted 59
PREM19/2455 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, March-April 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1986 Sep 29 1987 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 310
PREM19/2826 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the NATO Summit, Brussels, May 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Apr 6 1989 Jun 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2821 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Strasbourg for European Council meeting, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Sep 3 1989 Dec 12 2016 Dec 30 5 Confidential 85
PREM19/2432 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Nov 6 2016 Jul 21 12 Confidential 260
PREM19/2452 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Nov 23 1988 Nov 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 8

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