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 descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1635 Security (Prime Minister's visit to Century House (SIS headquarters), September 1984) 1984 Sep 5 1984 Oct 8 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 10
PREM19/1505 Foreign Policy (British policy in the Antarctic) 1980 Dec 5 1985 Aug 16 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 197
PREM19/1112 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Falklands, Jan 1983) (Part 1) 1982 Aug 10 1983 Jan 12 2013 Aug 1 3 Top Secret 197
PREM19/875 Posts and telecommunications (Future of Post Office: liberalisation of telecommunications monopoly; British Telecom's investment programme; BT and postal tariff increases) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 4 1982 Mar 16 2013 Sep 24 Top Secret 282
PREM19/876 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; British Telecom's financial position and prices; System X) (Part 4) 1982 Mar 22 1982 Jul 19 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 159
PREM19/628 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 17) 1982 May 15 1982 May 17 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 153
PREM19/385 Ireland (Prime Minister’s visit to Northern Ireland, December 1979) 1979 Aug 27 1980 Jan 16 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 137
PREM19/1240 (main part) France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand; meeting of Franco-British Council; Prime Minister's meetings with Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy and Minister for European Affairs Roland Dumas) (Part 3) 1981 Sep 11 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Top Secret 327
PREM19/909 Soviet Union (Soviet General Staff Command exercise) 1982 Jun 24 1982 Jul 15 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 6
PREM19/1053 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 4) 1982 Nov 8 1983 Feb 16 2013 Aug 1 16 Top Secret 453
PREM19/926 Soviet Union (Relations between the UK and Soviet Union) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1982 Apr 5 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 214
PREM19/14 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1979 Dec 15 2013 Sep 24 Top Secret 177
PREM19/1054 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 5) 1983 Feb 17 1983 Apr 19 2013 Aug 1 11 Top Secret 317
PREM19/387 Afghanistan (Internal Situation) (Part 5) 1980 Apr 10 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 333
PREM19/693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 3) 1979 Sep 3 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 258