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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1632 Security (Bomb explosion at the Grand Hotel, Brighton, during the Conservative Party Conference, 12 October 1984) 1984 Oct 12 1985 Jun 24 2014 Dec 30 10 Secret 97
PREM19/2459 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jun 8 1988 Dec 28 2016 Jul 21 10 Secret 207
PREM19/2935 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems) (Part 8) 1990 Jan 18 1990 Jul 30 2016 Dec 30 10 Secret UK Eyes A 182
PREM19/1264 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 13) 1984 Apr 2 1984 Apr 30 2014 Jan 3 9 Secret 293
PREM19/2812 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Madrid for European Council meeting, June 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jun 21 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30 9 Confidential 76
PREM19/1265 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 14) 1984 May 1 1984 Jun 30 2014 Jan 3 9 Secret UK eyes 373
PREM19/1430 Civil Service (Scrutiny of Overseas Development Administration (ODA): correspondence from civil servant in ODA) 1982 Feb 12 1985 Dec 3 2014 Dec 30 9 Confidential 59
PREM19/3656 Disasters Chernobyl: Soviet nuclear accident, 26 April 1986 (Part 1) 1986 Apr 29 1992 Sep 21 2017 Dec 29 9 Top Secret 299
PREM19/951 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 33) 1983 Mar 3 1983 Apr 30 2013 Aug 1 9 Secret 322
PREM19/2447 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Italy for Anglo-Italian Summit, October 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 21 1988 Oct 20 2016 Nov 7 9
PREM19/1673 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 14) 1984 Feb 21 1986 Jun 26 2014 Dec 30 8 Secret UK Eyes A 190
PREM19/2286 Japan (Vredeling Proposal on labour relations in the European Community; trade links between the European Community, USA and Japan) 1983 Dec 2 1988 Mar 11 2016 Dec 30 8 Confidential 241
PREM19/771 Government buildings (Building of an international conference centre on Broad Sanctuary in Westminster; redevelopment of Richmond Yard/Bridge Street site) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 1 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 215
PREM19/2017 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 42) 1987 Sep 7 1988 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30 8 Secret UK Eyes A 229
PREM19/943 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 227

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