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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2838 Scotland (Scottish High Court judges: possible homosexual scandal) 1989 Dec 22 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2185 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Germany: Prime Minister's visit with Kohl to British Forces Germany; part 6. Note: With map) (Part 6) 1986 Aug 21 1987 Sep 12 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2419 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Robert Key MP, 28 April 1987) 1988 Apr 19 1988 Apr 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1768 Government Buildings (Edward Erdman Surveyors report on the redevelopment of the Bridge Street site) 1983 Feb 1 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2604 Civil Service (Facilities agreement for non-industrial Civil Service unions) 1979 Dec 14 1989 Oct 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1933 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir George Porter, President of the Royal Society) 1986 May 22 1986 Aug 5 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1297 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 6) 1983 Dec 30 1984 Feb 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3015 Government Machinery (The Inland Revenue) 1986 Jun 9 1990 Jul 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2307 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 8) 1987 Aug 3 1987 Nov 12 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2600 Civil Service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs: Andrew Report on the 'Review of Government Legal Services') (Part 4) 1989 Jan 13 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1879 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: replies to Select Committee reports; conflict of interests in the House of Commons) (Part 7) 1985 Jun 3 1986 Jun 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2763 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 12) 1989 Jan 6 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2142 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy; establishment of HM Inspectorate of Pollution; acid rain - European Community directive on large combustion plants; air pollution; Government response to Select Committee on the Environment report on river and estuary pollution) (Part 5) 1986 Aug 1 1988 Jul 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2764 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 13) 1989 Jun 1 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2143 European Policy (European Community telecommunications: Research for an Advanced Communications Environment (RACE)) 1985 Mar 19 1986 Nov 24 2016 Jul 21