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? File classificationsort ascending Pages
PREM19/2939 Downing Street (Functions of the Prime Minister's Office) 1987 Jun 2 1990 Mar 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1738 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power policy; proposed fast reactor plant at Dounreay; Sizewell Inquiry; fast reactor policy; structure of nuclear industry; international co-operation on fusion; safety in civil nuclear installations and nuclear electricity policy after Chernobyl) (Part 9) 1984 Dec 6 1986 May 31 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/1893 Prime Minister (Correspondence from Councillor John Holt about threatened closure of Case Tractors, Meltham) 1985 Jul 1 1986 Mar 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1607 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Tony Christopher of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation) 1984 Dec 19 1985 Jan 10 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2971 Environmental Affairs (World Commission on Environment and Development: Bergen Conference 'Action for a Common Future', May 1990) 1988 Jul 5 1990 Feb 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3892 Prime Minister (Demise of a Prime Minister in office) 1989 Jan 31 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4480 Transport (Road freight transport and lorry weights) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 4 1993 Sep 15 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2595 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 9) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4003 Agriculture (Retail food price index)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1987 Aug 5 1993 Mar 3 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2717 Home Affairs (Data protection: computer hacking) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 12 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2908 Arts and Amenities (Future of the British Library: Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Trend and Sir Frederick Dainton and Minister for the Arts, Richard Luce) 1979 Aug 21 1990 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4549 Education (Financing of student unions) 1980 Feb 4 1994 Feb 23 2018 Dec 28

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