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 descending File classification Pages
PREM19/3408 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 27) 1989 Jan 20 1990 Apr 26 2017 Dec 29 5 Secret 303
PREM19/2053 Defence (Arms control) (Part 10) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Mar 10 2016 Jul 21 5 Top Secret 261
PREM19/3591 Zambia (Visits to the UK by the Zambian President, Kenneth Kaunda)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1979 Nov 1 1991 Nov 15 2017 Jul 20 5 Confidential 290
PREM19/2382 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising the State Opening) (Part 7) 1986 Jul 21 1987 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21 5 Confidential 282
PREM19/2054 Defence (Arms control) (Part 11) 1987 Mar 11 1987 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21 5 Secret and Personal 228
PREM19/1113 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Falklands, Jan 1983) (Part 2) 1983 Jan 10 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 153
PREM19/3278 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - London, July 1991) (Part 31) 1988 Aug 22 1991 Mar 29 2017 Jul 20 5 Confidential 249
PREM19/969 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Delhi, November 1983: policy) (Part 5) 1983 Jul 25 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 352
PREM19/2996 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Switzerland, September 1990) (Folder 2) 1990 Aug 20 1990 Sep 23 2016 Dec 30 5 Confidential 56
PREM19/1435 Defence (Celebration of 40th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day) 1984 Oct 2 1985 May 29 2014 Dec 30 5 Confidential 189
PREM19/3175 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visits to the Soviet Union, September 1989 and June 1990: policy) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 19 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20 5 Top Secret 188
PREM19/2129 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 10) 1987 Apr 2 1987 Sep 9 2016 Jul 21 5 Confidential 197
PREM19/2063 Defence (Future UK defence policy: merchant shippling and defence needs; NATO maritime rules of engagement) (Part 2) 1983 Nov 1 1987 Jul 27 2016 Nov 7 5 Secret 170
PREM19/3585 USA (UK/USA relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 8) 1990 Sep 3 1991 Oct 30 2017 Dec 29 5 Secret 326
PREM19/1502 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong and USA, December 1984: policy) 1984 Sep 12 1985 Mar 25 2014 Dec 30 5 Confidential 250

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