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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/729 Education (Report on education in Toxteth) 1982 May 7 1982 May 24 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 26
PREM19/2308 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 9) 1987 Nov 13 1988 Mar 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/250 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 7 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 549
PREM19/3034 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations: internal situation) (Part 3) 1987 Mar 10 1990 Jun 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2280 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 26) 1988 Oct 1 1988 Dec 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1663 Deaths (Assassination of Indira Gandhi, October 1984: Prime Minister's visit to India to attend funeral) 1984 Oct 31 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/1322 National health (Reforming the National Health Service (NHS); reorganisation: compensation terms) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 15 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/984 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 22) 1983 Jan 24 1983 Jun 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 272
PREM19/170 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 11 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 182
PREM19/435 Economic policy (Brandt Commission; relations with developing countries; North/South Dialogue; Cancun Summit, Mexico) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 12 1981 Sep 24 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 263
PREM19/3086 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 33) 1990 Nov 1 1990 Nov 17 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret - Cab One 375
PREM19/2202 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 22) 1986 Nov 3 1987 Jan 27 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2897 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 18) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2072 Defence (Royal Navy deployments) 1980 Jan 18 1987 Dec 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2203 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 23) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Jun 26 2015 Dec 30