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 Titlesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/759 Foreign policy (East/West relations; United States foreign policy) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 2 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 227
PREM19/1033 Foreign policy (East/West relations; United States foreign policy) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 1 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 416
PREM19/238 Foreign Policy (East/West relations; Western strategy in wake of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 192
PREM19/2174 Foreign Policy (Future inward and outward State visits; visits by members of the Royal Family) 1985 Sep 1 1988 Aug 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1235 Foreign policy (Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) assessments summaries produced by Sir Percy Cradock) 1983 Mar 16 1984 Nov 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2689 Foreign Policy (Policy towards bilateral summits) 1988 Mar 28 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2176 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988) (Part 1) 1988 May 12 1988 Jul 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2690 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988: policy. Note: With photograph) 1988 Aug 1 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2175 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain, September 1988) 1988 Aug 1 1988 Nov 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/467 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia & the Gulf States, April 1981) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 8 1981 Apr 13 2011 Dec 30 3 Confidential 201
PREM19/757 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia & the Gulf States, April 1981) (Part 2) 1981 Apr 13 1982 Nov 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 247
PREM19/2994 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990) 1990 Aug 17 1990 Oct 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/236 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister’s visit to Greece and Yugoslavia, September 1980: policy) 1980 Aug 27 1980 Oct 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/756 Foreign policy (Relations with Allies) 1980 Jul 9 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 67
PREM19/1155 Foreign policy (Strategy meetings: foreign affairs and defence) (Part 1) 1983 Apr 22 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Secret 417

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