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
PREM19/558 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening of Parliament) (Part 3) 1980 Nov 18 1981 Oct 22 2011 Dec 30 17 Secret 191
PREM19/2434 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 1) 1987 Mar 1 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21 17 Secret 203
PREM19/1049 Grenada (US-led invasion) (Part 2) 1983 Oct 28 1983 Dec 16 2013 Aug 1 18 Top Secret 321
PREM19/1391 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 9 1984 Sep 30 2014 Jan 3 18 Top Secret 379
PREM19/2773 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 19) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Nov 29 2017 Jul 20 19 Top Secret 320
PREM19/609 Vatican (Visit to UK by the Pope, May-June 1982) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 10 1982 Jun 9 2011 Dec 30 19 Secret 153
PREM19/3440 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 35) 1990 Dec 7 1990 Dec 31 2018 Jul 24 19 Top Secret 432
PREM19/3340 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's meetings with the Foreign Secretary) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 20 1990 Dec 18 2019 Jul 18 20 Secret 208
PREM19/1530 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 17) 1984 Sep 26 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 20 Secret 291
PREM19/3181 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; Lithuanian declaration of independence) (Part 15) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30 20 Top Secret Cab One 307
PREM19/3211 USA (United States foreign policy: USA/European relations) (Part 3) 1987 Jan 9 1990 Mar 22 2017 Jul 20 22 Top Secret Cab One 357
PREM19/602 Vatican (Possible visit to UK by the Pope in 1982) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 26 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 23 Confidential 187
PREM19/1429 Civil Service (Assassination and death in service: policy on compensation for civil servants' families) 1984 May 21 1985 Nov 20 2014 Dec 30 24 Confidential 110
PREM19/3780 Government Machinery (Special Political Advisers: appointments) (Part 5) 1989 Sep 4 1992 Apr 30 2017 Dec 29 26 Confidential 344
PREM19/2442 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya and Nigeria, January 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Oct 28 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21 27 Secret 270

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