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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2199 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 12 1987 Jun 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1381 Security (Information leaked by ‘The Guardian’ about siting of cruise nuclear missiles at Greenham Common; Sarah Tisdall not referred to Security Commission) 1983 Oct 24 1984 Apr 9 Retained Retained
PREM19/2539 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 3 1987 Apr 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2498 Security (Threat of unauthorised disclosure by former employee of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)) 1987 Feb 6 1987 Mar 20 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2383 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising proceedings of the House of Commons; establishment of Select Committee) (Part 8) 1987 Oct 16 1988 Nov 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2211 Greece (UK/Greek relations) (Part 1) 1980 May 1 1987 Mar 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/870 Poland (Intelligence) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Feb 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2540 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 8) 1987 May 5 1987 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2499 Security (RAF fixed telecommunications system) 1988 Mar 29 1988 Jul 21 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2068 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative) (Part 4) 1985 Dec 4 1987 Oct 2 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2391 Posts and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; Sale of the Government's Cable and Wireless shares; British Telecom (BT) and National Girobank) (Part 10) 1985 Aug 1 1987 Sep 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2216 Home Affairs (Assaults on children: inquiry into child abuse and attached report on child abuse in Cleveland; activities of the Paedophile International Exchange) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 1 1988 Sep 5 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2541 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 9) 1987 Nov 2 1987 Dec 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2500 Security (Reform of Official Secrets Act: proposed Protection of Official Information Bill; enforcing the duty of confidentiality) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/160 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; UK/US understandings on the use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1980 Mar 25 Retained Unknown