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
PREM19/3208 USA (Prime Minister's visits to the USA) (Part 10) Begins: 1990 Sep 21 Ends: 1990 Dec 28 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 175
PREM19/638 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 27) Begins: 1982 Jun 27 Ends: 1982 Jul 20 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 251
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) Begins: 1989 Oct 4 Ends: 1990 Dec 17 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 365
PREM19/3249 Defence (Future UK defence policy) (Part 5) Begins: 1990 Aug 9 Ends: 1991 Jan 28 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 399
PREM19/3025 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: Working Group on Disruption in the Prison Service; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 5) Begins: 1989 Feb 2 Ends: 1990 Mar 20 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 176
PREM19/2595 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 9) Begins: 1989 Jul 3 Ends: 1989 Oct 31 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 285
PREM19/3344 France (Anglo-French relations) (Part 5) Begins: 1988 Dec 8 Ends: 1991 Feb 26 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 232
PREM19/1057 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 8) Begins: 1983 Sep 1 Ends: 1983 Sep 30 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 304
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
PREM19/1655 USA (Visits to UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) Begins: 1982 Apr 9 Ends: 1985 Dec 12 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 271
PREM19/1656 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 3) Begins: 1984 Feb 9 Ends: 1985 May 31 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 333
PREM19/1285 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 15) Begins: 1984 Jan 6 Ends: 1984 Mar 30 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 249
PREM19/2535 Soviet Union (Domestic scene: Soviet leadership succession (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, Gorbachev)) (Part 2) Begins: 1979 Jun 20 Ends: 1987 Aug 5 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 337
PREM19/2051 Cyprus (Visits to UK by President Kyprianou and his successor President George Vassiliou) (Part 2) Begins: 1985 Mar 6 Ends: 1988 Dec 21 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 320
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

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