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 name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1316 Ministers (Ministers’ outside interests; position of Ministers on appointment to office; membership at Lloyds; Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1984 Sep 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3202 United Nations ​​​​​​​(United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO): General Conference in Belgrade, September-October 1980; UK withdrawal from UNESCO) 1980 Oct 16 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1956 Sierra Leone (Visits to UK by President Stevens, November 1980, and President Momoh, March 1986: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 9 1986 Mar 5 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2801 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM)) 1986 Sep 5 1990 Jan 9 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3403 Ireland ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations)(Part 21) 1990 Apr 6 1991 Jul 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2572 Yemen (Internal situation in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY): evacuation of British subjects and others) 1980 Apr 22 1988 Oct 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1910 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Sep 16 1986 Oct 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3604 Aerospace (Space policy)​​​​​​​ (Part 4) 1983 Mar 3 1992 Nov 9 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2882 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD): review of the status of the ECGD) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 9 1989 Nov 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1758 Foreign Policy (Review of the British Council) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 9 1986 Jul 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1630 Security (Hijacking of an Air Tanzania Boeing 737 by Tanzanian dissidents: surrender at Stansted Airport, 28 February 1982) 1982 Feb 28 1985 Nov 19 2014 Dec 30
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
PREM19/3850 Mexico (Visits to the UK by Mexican Presidents Miguel de la Madrid and Carlos Salinas de Gortari) 1979 May 1 1992 Jul 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3243 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(High level review of the role of the Commonwealth: dates for Heads of Government meeting) 1990 Jun 5 1991 Aug 20 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1850 Memorials (WPC Yvonne Fletcher memorial) 1984 May 1 1985 Feb 13 2015 Dec 30 2

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