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 descending Link to selections
PREM19/2514 Security (Allegations against the Security Service) 1977 Jul 16 1987 Mar 18 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1728 Education (Student loans: review of financial support for students) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 23 1986 May 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1385 Security (Case of Rhona Ritchie, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official, convicted of passing classified documents to Egyptian diplomat in Tel Aviv; Security Commission investigation) 1982 Mar 17 1983 Jul 26 2014 Jan 3 1
PREM19/2291 Legal Procedure (Jury vetting) 1979 Sep 20 1985 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3001 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 4) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Aug 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2241 Immigration (Immigration Rules) (Part 3) 1986 Apr 7 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1306 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 21) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3 2
PREM19/2987 European Policy (Visit to the UK by Jose Maria de Areilza, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, February 1982: possible visit by Catherine Lalumiere, Secretary General of the Council of Europe) 1981 Jul 15 1990 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2184 Germany (750th anniversary of Berlin in 1987) 1986 Jun 26 1987 May 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2864 South Africa (Visits to London by South African Finance Ministers: Senator Owen Horwood (October 1979) and Barend du Plessis (April 1989)) 1979 Jun 19 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2046 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 11) 1986 Sep 4 1987 Oct 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1226 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 23A) 1984 Feb 1 1984 Mar 1 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2551 Trade (Multilateral trade negotiations) 1979 May 17 1987 Nov 19 2016-07-2016
PREM19/2027 Broadcasting (Prime Minister's seminar on broadcasting, 21 September 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Sep 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2696 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: question of German reunification) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 1 1989 Dec 31 2016 Dec 30