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? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/3084 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 31) Begins: 1990 Oct 9 Ends: 1990 Oct 21 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Top Secret - Cab One Pages: 324
PREM19/3085 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 32) Begins: 1990 Oct 22 Ends: 1990 Oct 31 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 11 File classification: Top Secret - Cab One Pages: 241
PREM19/3086 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 33) Begins: 1990 Nov 1 Ends: 1990 Nov 17 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Top Secret - Cab One Pages: 375
PREM19/3439 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 34) Begins: 1990 Nov 18 Ends: 1990 Dec 6 Date of release: Date of release: 2018 Jul 24 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Top Secret - Cab One Pages: 298
PREM19/818 Ireland (Security of the Northern Ireland border) Begins: 1979 Sep 6 Ends: 1982 Jun 16 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Top Secret - Cabinet 2 Pages: 16
PREM19/565 Prime Minister (Meeting with Jim Spicer MP on strategic importance of the Cape route; United Nations arms embargo against South Africa) Begins: 1981 Feb 2 Ends: 1981 Mar 16 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Top Secret - Codeword Pages: 28
PREM19/498 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; force levels) (Part 8) Begins: 1980 Aug 12 Ends: 1981 Feb 25 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Top Secret - UK eyes A Pages: 224
PREM19/842 Middle East (Arms sales & military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 2) Begins: 1981 Apr 2 Ends: 1982 Sep 15 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret - UK Eyes A Pages: 275
PREM19/2799 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 11) Begins: 1989 Sep 1 Ends: 1989 Dec 27 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Top Secret Cab One Pages: 430
PREM19/3211 USA (United States foreign policy: USA/European relations) (Part 3) Begins: 1987 Jan 9 Ends: 1990 Mar 22 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 22 File classification: Top Secret Cab One Pages: 357
PREM19/2585 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 43) Begins: 1989 Jan 2 Ends: 1989 Dec 13 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 13 File classification: Top Secret Cab One Pages: 269
PREM19/1968 South Africa (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 11) Begins: 1986 Jul 1 Ends: 1986 Jul 15 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19 Any docs withheld? 9 File classification: Top Secret Cab One Pages: 248
PREM19/3181 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; Lithuanian declaration of independence) (Part 15) Begins: 1990 Feb 1 Ends: 1990 Mar 31 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 20 File classification: Top Secret Cab One Pages: 307
PREM19/2049 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on South Africa in London, August 1986) Begins: 1986 Jul 4 Ends: 1987 Jan 13 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Top Secret Cab One Pages: 178
PREM19/1970 South Africa (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 13) Begins: 1986 Aug 1 Ends: 1986 Nov 28 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Top Secret Cab One Pages: 289

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