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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1496 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) 1984 Dec 13 1985 Mar 21 2014 Dec 30 2 Top Secret 334
PREM19/1497 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 1) 1985 Apr 1 1985 Apr 4 2014 Dec 30 5 Top Secret 146
PREM19/1498 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 2) 1985 Apr 5 1985 Jul 27 2014 Dec 30 2 Secret 367
PREM19/1764 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 3) 1984 Oct 1 1986 Sep 22 Secret 306
PREM19/3006 Germany (Visit to London by Count Otto Lambsdorff, Chairman of the FDP (Free Democrats), January 1990) 1979 May 17 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3005 Germany (Visits to the UK by Richard von Weizsacker, President of the Federal Republic of Germany) 1986 Feb 3 1990 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1783 Home Affairs (Civil disorder: the Handsworth and Tottenham riots) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 4 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 98
PREM19/1791 Home Affairs (Disposal of nuclear waste) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Jan 22 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 323
PREM19/1786 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: prison manpower; Scrutiny of the Prison Service) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 9 1986 May 22 2014 Dec 30 Secret 291
PREM19/1530 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 17) 1984 Sep 26 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 14 Secret 291
PREM19/1796 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 18) 1985 May 2 1986 Oct 20 2014 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/1531 Hong Kong (Metro Cammell contract to supply rolling stock for Kowloon-Canton railway) 1981 Aug 14 1985 Sep 26 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 38
PREM19/1532 Hong Kong (Power projects in Hong Kong and China involving UK companies: Castle Peak power station in Hong Kong; Guandong nuclear power project) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 2 1985 Dec 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 300
PREM19/2238 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 12) 1988 May 3 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 404
PREM19/2239 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 13) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Personal 351