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
PREM19/2665 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 32) 1989 Jun 7 1989 Jun 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1995 United Nations (Visits to UK by UN Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar; question of his successor) (Part 2) 1982 May 7 1986 Nov 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2525 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 15) 1987 Sep 2 1988 May 26 2016 Nov 7 2
PREM19/1676 Belize (Dispute with Guatemala) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1983 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3110 Parliament (Parliamentary scrutiny of European Community legislation: UK representation in European Community institutions; House of Commons links with the European Community) 1980 May 7 1990 Oct 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2343 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 17) 1988 Dec 20 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2016 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 41) 1986 Jun 26 1987 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2856 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 4) 1987 May 6 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2187 Government Buildings (Vacant public property) 1987 Apr 10 1987 Apr 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3066 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 19. Orderable at item level) 1990 May 2 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1770 Government Machinery (Crown Agents Tribunal of Enquiry: future of the Crown Agents) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 11 1986 Jan 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2615 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities by anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 27 1989 Mar 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1935 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's seminar and reception for industrial designers, January 1982)(Part 1) 1981 Oct 19 1985 Dec 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2449 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris for ratification of the Channel Tunnel Treaty, July 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jul 7 1987 Jul 30 2016 Nov 7 1
PREM19/1299 Libya (UK/Libyan relations; threat to Libyan dissidents in UK) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 9 1984 Mar 23 2014 Jan 3