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
PREM19/2020 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts; private sponsorship of the arts) (Part 2) 1983 Dec 2 1987 Mar 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2681 Foreign Policy (Allegations concerning war criminals: War Crimes Inquiry) (Part 2) 1989 Jun 30 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1818 Italy (Anglo-Italian relations: Italian political scene; British contribution to Italian earthquake relief, 1980-1981) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1986 Nov 6 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 387
PREM19/1475 Energy (Cross Channel electricity link) 1980 Jul 15 1985 Jun 17 2014 Dec 30 Secret 55
PREM19/1140 Soviet Union (Representations from Commander Anthony Courtney, former Conservative MP, about Soviet espionage activity in UK) 1980 Jan 8 1982 Dec 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 30
PREM19/127 United States (MT visit to Washington - policy, December 1979) 1979 Nov 8 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 301
PREM19/804 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 8) 1981 Oct 7 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 205
PREM19/468 France (Visit to UK by Jacques Chaban-Delmas, President of National Assembly, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Mar 20 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 13
PREM19/1852 Ministers (Market and Opinion Research International Ltd (MORI): requests for Geoffrey Finsberg MP and Lord Young to participate in surveys on a range of issues affecting British industry) 1980 Jun 2 1986 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2534 Soviet Union (Soviet military expenditure and capabilities) 1979 May 24 1988 Dec 7 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1739 Energy (Prime Minister's meeting with Douglas Hogg MP about disposal of nuclear waste) 1986 Mar 4 1986 Apr 7 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/46 Energy (Offshore Supplies Interest Relief Grants Scheme) 1979 May 24 1979 Sep 20 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 41
PREM19/1396 Tonga (Visits to UK by King and Queen of Tonga, December 1979 and October 1983) 1979 Nov 20 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1060 India (Orissa steel plant) 1982 Jan 11 1983 Aug 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 106
PREM19/723 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Versailles) (Part 7) 1982 Mar 4 1982 Jun 2 2012 Dec 28 Secret 214