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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3825 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1990 Oct 1 1992 Feb 6 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3829 Israel (Visits to the UK by Israeli Prime Ministers, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin) (Part 2) 1990 Oct 1 1992 Dec 16 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3135 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Extraordinary European Council meeting in Rome, October 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Sep 27 1990 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3083 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 30) 1990 Sep 26 1990 Oct 8 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3208 USA ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visits to the USA)(Part 10) 1990 Sep 21 1990 Dec 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3306 Environmental Affairs ​​​​​​​(Environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper)(Part 18) 1990 Sep 14 1991 May 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3082 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 29) 1990 Sep 14 1990 Sep 29 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/3121 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lady Porter, 13 September 1990: proposal for a Minister for London) 1990 Sep 13 1990 Nov 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2995 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990: briefing) 1990 Sep 12 1990 Sep 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3081 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 28) 1990 Sep 6 1990 Sep 13 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret 328
PREM19/3227 Cabinet ​​​​​​​(Arrangements for Cabinet business)(Part 20) 1990 Sep 5 1991 Jan 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3302 Elections ​​​​​​​(Election procedure)(Part 4) 1990 Sep 5 1991 Jan 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3002 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 5) 1990 Sep 5 1990 Nov 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3575 Transport ​​​​​​​(The Channel Tunnel: Channel Tunnel Rail Link)​​​​​​​ (Part 8) 1990 Sep 4 1991 Aug 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3288 Economic Policy ​​​​​​​(Public expenditure and cash limits)(Part 45) 1990 Sep 4 1991 Mar 23 2017 Jul 20

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