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
PREM19/2432 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Feb 1 1988 Nov 6 2016 Jul 21 12 Confidential 260
PREM19/2457 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Venice Economic Summit, June 1987: administrative arrangements) 1986 Oct 30 1987 Aug 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2403 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London: meeting with Prime Minister; supply of IR18 Thermal Imager to Syria) (Part 3) 1983 Apr 15 1988 Mar 15 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 115
PREM19/2401 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's international commitments) (Part 1) 1983 Dec 16 1988 May 5 2016 Jul 21 7 Personal and Confidential 226
PREM19/2400 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with a delegation of Muslim religious leaders, 28 April 1988) 1988 Jan 28 1988 Jun 7 2016 Jul 21 3 Restricted 80
PREM19/2402 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Allen Adams MP to discuss Babcock Power, 20 January 1987) 1986 Dec 23 1987 Jan 20 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 14
PREM19/2405 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dennis Canavan MP, 17 December 1987) 1984 Sep 11 1988 Jan 11 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 62
PREM19/2404 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Archbishop Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard of Liverpool) 1986 Nov 17 1987 Sep 24 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 107
PREM19/2406 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Edgar Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress) 1985 Feb 4 1988 Mar 8 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 46
PREM19/2398 Prime Minister (Submission of papers to the Prime Minister prior to trips abroad and recesses) 1979 Jul 17 1986 Jul 7 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 22
PREM19/1632 Security (Bomb explosion at the Grand Hotel, Brighton, during the Conservative Party Conference, 12 October 1984) 1984 Oct 12 1985 Jun 24 2014 Dec 30 10 Secret 97
PREM19/2875 Sri Lanka (UK/Sri Lanka relations: aid to Sri Lanka; internal situation) (Part 3) 1986 Mar 3 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2893 Venezuela (Possible visit of the Venezuelan President-elect, Jaime Lusinchi: internal situation) 1983 Nov 28 1989 Sep 12 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
PREM19/386 Aerospace (British Aerospace’s bid for Arab Communications Satellite) 1981 Apr 7 1981 May 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 29