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
PREM19/2431 Prime Minister's Gifts (Copies of invoices received for payment for gifts purchased for presentation to overseas visitors: general correspondence on gifts) (Part 3) 1984 Sep 3 1986 Sep 5 2016 Jul 21 3
PREM19/1406 Yugoslavia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Milka Planinc, November 1983: meeting with Prime Minister) 1982 Jun 30 1983 Nov 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1755 European Policy (European Institute of Public Administration at Maastricht) 1981 Nov 19 1986 Aug 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1281 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 10) 1983 Mar 4 1984 Apr 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1627 Security (Sinking of Argentine warship General Belgrano in 1982: report by House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 1 1985 Oct 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2162 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 1 1987 Jan 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2988 European Policy (Setting up of European Bank of Reconstruction and Development) 1989 Dec 14 1990 Sep 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1845 Defence (Defence Budget) (Part 11) 1984 Apr 16 1985 May 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2738 Industrial Policy (Research and development, including European Community framework programme for research and development) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2110 Economic Policy (Toronto Economic Summit: Prime Minister's Personal Representative for Economic Summits; 'Sherpa' papers) (Part 3) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jul 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2653 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; London Conference on Saving the Ozone Layer, March 1989) (Part 7) 1989 Jan 30 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1596 (Representation of political Parties at ceremonial occasions: Cenotaph, State banquets, Battle of Britain commemoration) 1983 Jul 27 1985 Aug 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1591 Overseas Aid (Overseas aid policy: International Development Association (IDA)) (Part 4) 1984 Jan 4 1985 Jun 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1592 Papua New Guinea (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Sir Julius Chan, May 1981, and Michael Somare, April 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 2 1985 Apr 24 2014 Dec 30