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
PREM19/384 Yemen Arab Republic (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani, November 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 13 1980 Jan 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 69
PREM19/253 Home Affairs (Increase in incidence of leukaemia in Lancashire; correspondence with Stan Thorne MP) 1979 Oct 4 1980 Feb 25 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 69
PREM19/347 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 17) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Aug 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 194
PREM19/225 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 7) 1980 Mar 19 1980 Apr 28 2010 Dec 30 1 Secret 259
PREM19/318 New Zealand (Visit to UK by Brian Talboys, Deputy Prime Minister, December 1979, May 1980, and October 1980: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Nov 22 1980 Oct 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 64
PREM19/193 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body reports on salaries of senior civil servants, senior armed forces officers, judges, nationalised industries board members, Ministers and MPs) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 114
PREM19/286 Italy (Visit to UK by Emilio Colombo, Foreign Minister, May 1980) 1980 May 27 1980 May 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 22
PREM19/161 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 129
PREM19/385 Ireland (Prime Minister’s visit to Northern Ireland, December 1979) 1979 Aug 27 1980 Jan 16 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 137
PREM19/254 Home Affairs (Use of immigration rules to prevent scientologists entering UK; lifting of the ban) 1979 Nov 14 1980 Jul 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/81 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 27 1979 Sep 28 2010 Nov 10 3 Secret 184
PREM19/6 Civil Service (Manpower Freeze) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 7 1979 Dec 31 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 198
PREM19/99 Pakistan (Sale of cargo ships to Pakistan by British Shipbuilders) 1979 Jul 27 1979 Aug 23 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 15
PREM19/70 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 1) 1979 May 5 1979 Sep 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 191
PREM19/38 Economic policy (Proposed Council of Economic Advisers) 1979 May 30 1979 Sep 10 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 44