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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/484 Home affairs (Civil disorder: riots in Brixton, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester & London; Prime Minister's meetings with community leaders; anti-riot equipment for the police; Urban Programme; implications for local authority spending) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 29 2011 Dec 30 Secret 247
PREM19/2510 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 11) 1988 Apr 7 1988 Sep 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1724 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: introduction of General Certificate of Education (GCSE); Education Bill; biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges; city technological colleges; restructuring school education) (Part 8) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 25 2014 Dec 30
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
PREM19/2812 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Madrid for European Council meeting, June 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jun 21 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/62 Government machinery (Rayner review) (Part 3) 1979 Sep 17 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 255
PREM19/2158 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987: briefing papers) (Part 27A) 1987 Dec 1 1987 Dec 5 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/404 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; establishment of independent inquiry) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 10 1981 Nov 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 347
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
PREM19/1642 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 5) 1985 Jul 1 1985 Aug 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 358
PREM19/1302 Libya (Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3A) 1984 May 1 1984 May 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/964 Civil service (Manpower reductions in the Cabinet Office) 1979 Jul 20 1983 May 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 59
PREM19/2466 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: progress on 'Action for Cities'; Teesside development initiative; access to Cabinet and Prime Minister's office papers by National Audit Office for study on urban regeneration; Cardiff Bay Barrage) (Part 14) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1984 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines) (Part 1) 1985 Jan 29 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/659 Argentina (Compensation for the requisition of shipping and for civilian losses during the Falklands campaign) 1982 Jun 17 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 49