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.


Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1817 Israel (Internal situation and relations) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 1 1986 Jan 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2598 Civil Service (Election of officials in the Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA)) 1981 Nov 13 1986 Jul 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2693 France (Franco-British Council conference, Avignon, November 1984, and subsequent correspondence) 1983 Jun 27 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1988 Mar 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1343 Portugal (Prime Minister's visit to Portugal, April 1984) 1984 Feb 8 1984 Aug 9 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1692 Defence (Procurement of Weapon Systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles): airborne early warning aircraft (British Aerospace Nimrod and Boeing E3A)) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 10 1986 Dec 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3181 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; Lithuanian declaration of independence) (Part 15) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2382 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising the State Opening) (Part 7) 1986 Jul 21 1987 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21 5
PREM19/2224 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: increase in the prison population) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 12 1987 Oct 27 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/2889 United Nations (International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference, Nice, 1989) 1989 May 1 1989 Jun 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2638 Economic Policy (VAT zero rates: infraction proceedings; European Court of Justice judgment) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 12 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1969 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 12) 1986 Jul 16 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/3052 Ireland (Renewal of Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978; consideration of section 12 (detention); reviews of the Act; Government's security policy in Northern Ireland) 1980 Jun 25 1990 Nov 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2544 Soviet Union (Visit to UK by Dr Anatoly Koryagin: meeting with Prime Minister; abuse of psychiatry in USSR) 1987 Sep 29 1987 Nov 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1662 Civil Service (Industrial relations in the Civil Service: Department of Health and Social Security industrial action) 1979 Sep 5 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30