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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort ascending File classification Pages
PREM19/3440 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 35) 1990 Dec 7 1990 Dec 31 2018 Jul 24 19 Top Secret 432
PREM19/1391 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 9 1984 Sep 30 2014 Jan 3 18 Top Secret 379
PREM19/1049 Grenada (US-led invasion) (Part 2) 1983 Oct 28 1983 Dec 16 2013 Aug 1 18 Top Secret 321
PREM19/558 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening of Parliament) (Part 3) 1980 Nov 18 1981 Oct 22 2011 Dec 30 17 Secret 191
PREM19/2434 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, and private visit to Dallas, October 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 1 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21 17 Secret 203
PREM19/950 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 32) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Mar 2 2013 Aug 1 17 Secret 360
PREM19/1053 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 4) 1982 Nov 8 1983 Feb 16 2013 Aug 1 16 Top Secret 453
PREM19/3082 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 29) 1990 Sep 14 1990 Sep 29 2017 Jul 20 16 Secret 362
PREM19/1263 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 12) 1984 Feb 1 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 16 Secret 458
PREM19/582 Royal family (Duke of Edinburgh's statement on nuclear war: correspondence between the Duke and Fenner Brockway, Lord Brockway) 1981 Feb 12 1981 Apr 9 2015 Apr 22 16 Unclassified 34
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
PREM19/1421 Australia (Anglo-Australian relations: internal situation; trading relations with the EEC) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 26 1985 Dec 30 2014 Dec 30 15 Secret 317
PREM19/3076 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 23) 1990 Aug 13 1990 Aug 19 2017 Jul 20 15 Top Secret 349
PREM19/1449 Downing Street (250th anniversary of Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street) 1984 Dec 10 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 15 Confidential 181
PREM19/1498 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 2) 1985 Apr 5 1985 Jul 27 2014 Dec 30 14 Secret 367

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