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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1673 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 14) 1984 Feb 21 1986 Jun 26 2014 Dec 30 8 Secret UK Eyes A 190
PREM19/1265 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 14) 1984 May 1 1984 Jun 30 2014 Jan 3 9 Secret UK eyes 373
PREM19/1816 Israel (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986) 1986 Mar 6 1986 Jun 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret DEDIP 239
PREM19/2385 Poland (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988) (Part 1) 1988 Mar 29 1988 Oct 31 2016 Jul 21 Secret CAB ONE 293
PREM19/2239 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 13) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Personal 351
PREM19/1549 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 8) 1984 Nov 27 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 313
PREM19/1550 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 9) 1985 Jul 1 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 333
PREM19/1552 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 11) 1985 Nov 1 1985 Nov 14 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret and Personal 362
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
PREM19/817 Ireland (Northern Ireland Security Co-ordinator: appointments of Sir Maurice Oldfield and Sir Brooks Richards; post then left in abeyance) 1979 Sep 18 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret - Cabinet 2 146
PREM19/32 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 23 1979 Dec 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 115
PREM19/721 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/249 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 14 1980 Jul 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/595 Security (Leak to 'The Times' of Cabinet proceedings on public expenditure) 1981 Oct 21 1981 Oct 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 11) 1982 Feb 4 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 7 Secret 133