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
PREM19/3276 Economic Policy (Financial services: report of the Review Committee on Banking Services Law; Stock Exchange; company investigations; Diamond Report, 'A Review of Security Interests in Property' other than land) (Part 6) Begins: 1989 Feb 7 Ends: 1991 Dec 19 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Secret Pages: 313
PREM19/2460 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to USA and Jamaica, July 1988: administrative arrangements) Begins: 1987 Jun 12 Ends: 1987 Sep 4 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Secret Pages: 104
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
PREM19/2171 Fiji (UK/Fiji relations; visits to UK by Ratu Sir Kamisese Maru, April 1981, April 1983 and March 1988) Begins: 1981 Mar 24 Ends: 1988 Aug 22 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Secret Pages: 185
PREM19/3207 USA (Prime Minister's visits to the USA) (Part 9) Begins: 1990 Feb 5 Ends: 1990 Aug 8 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Secret Pages: 115
PREM19/3794 Home Affairs (Review of restrictions on shopping hours and Sunday trading: Shops Bill 1986; review of licensing hours) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Feb 12 Ends: 1992 Jan 30 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Confidential Pages: 280
PREM19/3347 France (Visits to the UK by Jacques Chirac (Mayor of Paris / Prime Minister) and Michel Rocard (Prime Minister)) (Part 1) Begins: 1982 Jan 25 Ends: 1991 Mar 27 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Top Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 340
PREM19/2527 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 17) Begins: 1988 Sep 1 Ends: 1988 Dec 22 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Secret - Cab 1 (Delicate source) Pages: 256
PREM19/1055 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 6) Begins: 1983 Apr 20 Ends: 1983 Jun 30 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Secret Pages: 268
PREM19/3146 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1990: administrative arrangements) Begins: 1989 Nov 23 Ends: 1990 May 21 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Confidential Pages: 158
PREM19/800 India (Visit to UK by Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, March 1982: Festival of India 1982) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 Feb 17 Ends: 1982 Feb 27 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Confidential Pages: 207
PREM19/815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 11) Begins: 1982 Feb 4 Ends: 1982 Jun 30 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Secret Pages: 133
PREM19/2401 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's international commitments) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Dec 16 Ends: 1988 May 5 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Personal and Confidential Pages: 226
PREM19/3435 Malta (UK/Maltese relations) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Nov 10 Ends: 1991 Jul 19 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Confidential Pages: 297
PREM19/1126 Saudi Arabia (Saudi/UK relations; internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Nov 9 Ends: 1983 Dec 23 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Secret Pages: 342

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