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 classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/2314 Manpower (Rayner Scrutiny of payment of benefits to unemployed people: joint study by Department of Employment and Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS); taxing of Unemployment Benefit) (Part 2) 1982 Jun 4 1988 Mar 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2088 Economic Policy (Strategy) (Part 27) 1985 Jan 8 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3045 Iraq (UK/Iraq relations) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1990 Mar 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1591 Overseas Aid (Overseas aid policy: International Development Association (IDA)) (Part 4) 1984 Jan 4 1985 Jun 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1254 Government machinery (Social Security Commissioners: transfer of responsibility from Secretary of State for Social Services to Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Scotland) 1984 Oct 11 1984 Oct 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1858 National Health (Mental health legislation: draft White Paper; release of dangerous psychopaths) 1981 Oct 26 1986 Apr 22 2015 Dec 30 1
PREM19/2208 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 28) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Nov 29 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2904 Agriculture (Salmonella and eggs) (Part 1) 1988 Dec 8 1990 Feb 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2599 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute and strike) (Part 17) 1987 Apr 2 1989 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2070 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA)) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 6 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1773 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; Efficiency Unit report on 'The Use of Value for Money Targets 1985-86', volume II) 1986 Apr 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2727 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 20) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Feb 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2610 Deaths (Action by the Prime Minister on the deaths of eminent persons: Government representation at memorial services) (Part 2) 1976 Mar 4 1989 Oct 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2472 Royal Family (Career of Prince Andrew, Duke of York) 1979 May 21 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2428 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for Prime Minister: general topics) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Mar 4 2016 Jul 21 1