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
PREM19/3869 Oman (Internal situation: UK/Oman relations) (Part 3) 1989 Feb 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3104 Norway ​​​​​​​(Internal situation; relations with UK) 1981 Feb 3 1990 May 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2372 Norway (Visits to UK by Norwegian Prime Ministers, Kare Willoch and Gro Harlem Bruntland) 1981 Nov 6 1987 Feb 24 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 113
PREM19/3867 Norway (Visits to the UK by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norwegian Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 10 1992 Nov 25 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2371 Norway (State Visit of King Olaf V of Norway, April 1988) 1987 Nov 13 1988 Apr 13 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 45
PREM19/3471 Nigeria ​​​​​​​(Visits of Nigerian Foreign Ministers) 1980 May 16 1991 Apr 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3103 Nigeria ​​​​​​​(UK/Nigeria relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1986 Oct 22 1990 Dec 10 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2370 Nigeria (Visit to UK by President Shagari, March 1981; proposed visit by President Babangida in 1989) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 16 1988 Dec 8 2016 Nov 7 2 Confidential 120
PREM19/2791 Nigeria (Visit to UK by President Babangida, May 1989) (Part 2) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jun 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2367 Nicaragua (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 26 1987 Feb 25 2016 Nov 7 Top Secret 311
PREM19/3470 New Zealand ​​​​​​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by the New Zealand High Commissioners) 1979 Jul 3 1991 Jun 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2366 New Zealand (Internal situation: UK/New Zealand relations; Robert Muldoon succeeded as Prime Minister by David Lange; Labour government's ban on visits by nuclear-armed warships; sinking of Greenpeace vessel by French agents in Auckland harbour) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 20 1988 May 6 2016 Dec 30 1 Confidential 242
PREM19/3467 Netherlands ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Dutch relations)(Part 1) 1980 Sep 16 1991 Nov 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2789 Netherlands (Visits to UK by Queen Beatrix, November 1982 and January 1989) 1981 Dec 15 1989 Jan 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3866 Netherlands (Visits to the UK by Ruud Lubbers, Dutch Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1986 Sep 11 1992 Dec 23 2017 Dec 29

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