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
PREM19/1057 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 8) 1983 Sep 1 1983 Sep 30 2013 Aug 1 6 Secret 304
PREM19/3249 Defence (Future UK defence policy) (Part 5) 1990 Aug 9 1991 Jan 28 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 399
PREM19/3344 France (Anglo-French relations) (Part 5) 1988 Dec 8 1991 Feb 26 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 232
PREM19/3314 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights: Prime Minister's visit to Paris for Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Summit, November 1990) (Part 3) 1989 Oct 4 1990 Dec 17 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 365
PREM19/3146 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 23 1990 May 21 2017 Jul 20 7 Confidential 158
PREM19/2401 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's international commitments) (Part 1) 1983 Dec 16 1988 May 5 2016 Jul 21 7 Personal and Confidential 226
PREM19/3435 Malta (UK/Maltese relations) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 10 1991 Jul 19 2017 Jul 20 7 Confidential 297
PREM19/1126 Saudi Arabia (Saudi/UK relations; internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 9 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 7 Secret 342
PREM19/1495 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 5) 1985 Jul 31 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 7 Top Secret 424
PREM19/3554 Soviet Union (Soviet and Cuban intervention in Central America and Third World: Soviet foreign policy) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 19 1991 May 13 2017 Dec 29 7 Top Secret 206
PREM19/3920 Royal Family (Precedence of Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Royal visits) 1982 Dec 9 1992 Jul 20 2017 Dec 29 7 Unclassified 85
PREM19/2453 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to G7 Economic Summit in Toronto and to Ottawa, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 30 1988 Aug 10 2016 Jul 21 7 Secret 318
PREM19/3139 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to New York to attend World Summit for Children and to receive UNIFEM award, September-October 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Oct 13 1990 Oct 15 2017 Jul 20 7 Secret 174
PREM19/1385 Security (Case of Rhona Ritchie, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official, convicted of passing classified documents to Egyptian diplomat in Tel Aviv; Security Commission investigation) 1982 Mar 17 1983 Jul 26 2014 Jan 3 7 Secret 124
PREM19/2438 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Brussels, February 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 6 1988 Feb 23 2016 Jul 21 7 Confidential 39

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