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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.

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 and links to the PM’s files

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system.

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.

Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Private Office files, 1979-1989

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? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 3) Begins: 1979 Sep 3 Ends: 1982 Dec 24 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 258
PREM19/2367 Nicaragua (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jul 26 Ends: 1987 Feb 25 Date of release: 2016 Nov 7 Any docs withheld? 10 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 311
PREM19/694 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 4) Begins: 1981 Nov 17 Ends: 1982 Feb 26 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 154
PREM19/2173 Foreign Policy (East/West relations; Moscow Summit, May-June 1988, between United States President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev) (Part 8) Begins: 1987 Dec 1 Ends: 1988 Nov 15 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 11 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 334
PREM19/385 Ireland (Prime Minister’s visit to Northern Ireland, December 1979) Begins: 1979 Aug 27 Ends: 1980 Jan 16 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 137
PREM19/2860 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 19) Begins: 1989 Apr 6 Ends: 1989 Aug 31 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 12 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 330
PREM19/695 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 5) Begins: 1982 Mar 1 Ends: 1982 Sep 9 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 126
PREM19/975 Defence (Control of nuclear weapon systems deployed in UK: correspondence from David Owen) Begins: 1982 Dec 8 Ends: 1983 Nov 18 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 74
PREM19/1976 Spain (Internal situation; UK/Spain relations) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Mar 10 Ends: 1986 Feb 21 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 279
PREM19/2177 Foreign Policy (Bilateral meetings with the Foreign Secretary) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Sep 5 Ends: 1987 Sep 28 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 203
PREM19/1287 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 17A) Begins: 1984 Jul 2 Ends: 1984 Oct 5 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 219
PREM19/3554 Soviet Union (Soviet and Cuban intervention in Central America and Third World: Soviet foreign policy) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 Feb 19 Ends: 1991 May 13 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 206
PREM19/3175 Soviet Union (Prime Minister's visits to the Soviet Union, September 1989 and June 1990: policy) (Part 3) Begins: 1989 Apr 19 Ends: 1990 May 31 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 5 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 188
PREM19/387 Afghanistan (Internal Situation) (Part 5) Begins: 1980 Apr 10 Ends: 1981 Sep 14 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 333
PREM19/1288 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 17B) Begins: 1984 Oct 6 Ends: 1984 Oct 31 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 239

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