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 classification Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/567 Prime Minister (Meeting with Stephen Ross MP regarding closure of Elliott Turbomachinery Ltd in Cowes) 1981 Apr 30 1981 Jul 3 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 28
PREM19/568 Prime Minister (Meeting with Harry Cowans MP regarding threatened closure of Vickers Ltd Elswick works) 1981 May 20 1981 Jul 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 19
PREM19/569 Prime Minister (Meeting with Peter Fry MP to discuss closure of Wellingborough Foundry; UK footwear and clothing industries) 1981 May 15 1981 Dec 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 37
PREM19/570 Prime Minister (Meetings with William McKelvey MP to discuss closure of Armitage Shanks and Blackwood Morton and Sons (BMK) factories in Kilmarnock) 1981 Apr 30 1981 Nov 5 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 61
PREM19/571 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Carlisle MP to discuss sporting contacts with South Africa) 1981 Sep 7 1981 Sep 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 19
PREM19/572 Prime Minister (Meeting with Dr Walter Marshall, Chairman of UKAEA, Ted Stern of Westinghouse Power Systems and Harry Reinsch, President of Bechtel Power Corporation, to discuss the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) programme) 1981 Sep 10 1981 Sep 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/573 Prime Minister (Meeting with Lawrence Cunliffe MP about possible closure of David Brown Tractors Ltd and unemployment in Leigh) 1981 Oct 28 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/574 Prime Minister (Meeting with Dale Campbell-Savours MP regarding closure of Distington Foundry) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Apr 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 198
PREM19/575 Qatar (North West Dome gas field; pipeline problems; role of World Bank) 1980 Dec 29 1981 Jun 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 48
PREM19/576 Regional policy (Creation of Enterprise Zones; possible measures to assist Merseyside; Central Policy Review Staff report) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Jun 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 309
PREM19/577 Regional policy (Inner city policy: creation of urban development corporations to assist in regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 30 1981 Aug 7 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 170
PREM19/578 Regional policy (Inner city policy: creation of urban development corporations to assist in regeneration of Liverpool and London Docklands) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 11 1981 Oct 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 312
PREM19/579 Romania (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister Stefan Andrei, October 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Mar 13 1981 Oct 20 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/580 Romania (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Ilie Verdets of Romania, April 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Apr 1 1981 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 121
PREM19/581 Royal family (Visits to Northern Ireland by Princess Alexandra, June 1979 and June 1981) 1979 May 14 1981 May 29 2011 Dec 30 3 Secret 9