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 releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2766 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 15) 1989 Oct 2 1989 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3202 United Nations ​​​​​​​(United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO): General Conference in Belgrade, September-October 1980; UK withdrawal from UNESCO) 1980 Oct 16 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2877 Thailand (UK/Thailand relations: visits to UK by Prime Minister, General Prem Tinsulanonda) 1982 Mar 16 1989 Dec 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3237 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Harare, Zimbabwe, October 1991)(Part 17) 1990 Jun 7 1991 Oct 9 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3470 New Zealand ​​​​​​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by the New Zealand High Commissioners) 1979 Jul 3 1991 Jun 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3039 Industrial Policy (Problems associated with UK dependence on imported minerals: stockpile of strategic materials) 1979 Aug 13 1990 Aug 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3299 Education ​​​​​​​(Training: Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI); city technology colleges)(Part 3) 1986 Jul 1 1991 Jan 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3116 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Gerald Carroll, Chairman of the Carroll Group, 22 January 1990) 1989 Nov 8 1990 Oct 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3357 Government Buildings ​​​​​​​(Proposal from Professor Randolph Quirk for University of London to move into Somerset House: relocation of government offices from Somerset House; relocation to London Docklands)(Part 1) 1982 Jun 1 1991 Jun 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3569 St Vincent ​​​​​​​(Independence: relations with UK)​​​​​​​ 1979 Jun 20 1991 Jun 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2762 Local Government​​​​​​​ (Relations between central and local government: local authority expenditure) (Part 36) 1988 Aug 2 1989 May 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3201 United Nations ​​​​​​​(United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD): Common Fund for Commodities) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 5 1990 May 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3236 Civil Service ​​​​​​​(Pay and pensions: Passport Department industrial dispute)(Part 18) 1989 Feb 1 1991 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3468 Netherlands (Prime Minister's visits to the Netherlands, September 1983 and September 1991)(Part 1) 1983 Sep 1 1991 Sep 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3033 Housing (Private rented sector) 1984 Feb 20 1990 Apr 23 2017 Jul 20