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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/169 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 12) 1980 Nov 11 1980 Nov 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/362 Security (Leak in Guardian and Time Out of Ministerial discussion on civil nuclear power programme) 1979 Dec 6 1980 Mar 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 23
PREM19/262 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 3 1980 Feb 14 2010 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/139 Anguilla (Legislation for separation of Anguilla from St Kitts-Nevis) 1980 Mar 26 1980 Oct 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/327 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 5) 1980 Apr 1 1980 Oct 23 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 188
PREM19/233 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1980 Jan 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 260
PREM19/202 Education (Non-teaching staff employed by local education authorities) 1980 Jan 30 1980 Mar 10 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 16
PREM19/295 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 21 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 250
PREM19/170 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 11 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 182
PREM19/365 Social Services (Rayner study on arrangements for paying social security benefits) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 22 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 282
PREM19/263 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 14 1980 Apr 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 215
PREM19/140 Argentina (Visit to UK by Dr Martinez de Hoz, Minister of Economy, June 1980) 1980 Feb 26 1980 Jun 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 16
PREM19/328 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 8 1980 Feb 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 243
PREM19/234 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 3 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 134
PREM19/203 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 3) 1979 Nov 5 1980 Feb 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 264