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 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.

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.


Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2072 Defence (Royal Navy deployments) 1980 Jan 18 1987 Dec 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2636 Economic Policy (Covenanted charitable donations by close companies: taxation of charities; White Paper on Charities) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 22 1989 May 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1579 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 16) 1985 Jan 21 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 382
PREM19/1241 France (State visit to UK by President Mitterrand, October 1984) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Nov 2 Retained Retained
PREM19/905 Scotland (Scottish Milk Marketing Board (SMMB): correspondence with Dr W G Jack about SMMB’s decision to extend the operation of its tanker fleet) 1979 Sep 26 1982 Jan 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 161
PREM19/569 Prime Minister (Meeting with Peter Fry MP to discuss closure of Wellingborough Foundry; UK footwear and clothing industries) 1981 May 15 1981 Dec 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 37
PREM19/229 European Policy (EEC food exports to Soviet Union; sales of subsidised butter) 1979 Sep 3 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 80
PREM19/25 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 17 1979 Jul 13 2009 Dec 30 Secret 167
PREM19/1840 Manpower (Employment policy: employment measures; review of employment policies) (Part 14) 1986 May 2 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1498 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) 1985 Apr 5 1985 Jul 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2362 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 15) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Nov 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1162 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways; Price Waterhouse Report; privatisation) (Part 1) 1982 Mar 10 1984 Feb 23 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 218
PREM19/3192 Transport (British Rail: possible line closures; public transport disputes; proposed restructuring of British Rail) (Part 10) 1988 Oct 5 1990 Jan 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/825 Legal procedure (European Court of Human Rights: British Rail closed shop case) 1979 Jun 19 1982 Jan 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 53
PREM19/2497 Security (Correspondence with Members of Parliament) 1988 Apr 12 1988 Apr 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4