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
PREM19/3137 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Bermuda, April 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Mar 9 1990 Jul 12 2017 Jul 20 11 Secret 223
PREM19/1437 Defence (Proposal by Julian Amery MP to revive the Special Operations Executive (SOE): history of SOE in the Far East, Greece and Scandinavia) 1980 Apr 3 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 12 Secret 48
PREM19/2443 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, August 1988: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1988 Jan 20 1988 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 12 Confidential 189
PREM19/1069 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 14) 1983 Aug 1 1983 Dec 13 2013 Aug 1 12 Secret 274
PREM19/2432 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Nov 6 2016 Jul 21 12 Confidential 260
PREM19/2435 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, and private visit to Dallas, October 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 1 1987 Nov 18 2016 Jul 21 12 Secret 181
PREM19/2860 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 19) 1989 Apr 6 1989 Aug 31 2017 Jul 20 12 Top Secret 330
PREM19/3545 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 23) 1990 Jul 11 1990 Dec 28 2017 Dec 29 12 Top Secret 297
PREM19/1499 Foreign Policy (Briefing for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30 12 Secret 318
PREM19/1048 Grenada (US-led invasion) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 29 1983 Oct 27 2013 Aug 1 13 Top Secret
PREM19/2444 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain, September 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 6 1988 Nov 14 2016 Nov 7 13 Secret 254
PREM19/953 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 35) 1983 Sep 19 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 13 Secret 347
PREM19/2585 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 43) 1989 Jan 2 1989 Dec 13 2017 Jul 20 13 Top Secret Cab One 269
PREM19/3348 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 1 1991 Dec 6 2017 Jul 20 14 Secret UK Eyes A 230
PREM19/2525 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 15) 1987 Sep 2 1988 May 26 2016 Nov 7 14 Secret 408

Pages