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 descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3575 Transport ​​​​​​​(The Channel Tunnel: Channel Tunnel Rail Link)​​​​​​​ (Part 8) 1990 Sep 4 1991 Aug 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2774 Ministers (Rules governing travel by Ministers) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 6 1989 Sep 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3208 USA ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visits to the USA)(Part 10) 1990 Sep 21 1990 Dec 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2907 Arts and Amenities (Future of the Victoria and Albert and Science Museums: future of the Theatre Museum and Museum of Childhood; Nehru Gallery Appeal) 1982 Mar 1 1990 Aug 24 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3247 Czechoslovakia ​​​​​​​(Letter to the Prime Minister from Mrs Eva Kanturkova about the arrest and detention of the signatories of Charter 77) 1979 Jun 28 1981 Dec 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3474 Parliament ​​​​​​​(Legislative programme)(Part 20) 1990 Apr 2 1991 Jan 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3058 Italy (Visits of the Italian Prime Minister: visits of the Italian President) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 3 1990 Oct 20 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3308 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Community Budget: developments in the European Community)(Part 48) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2585 Argentina (UK/Argentina relations: Falkland Islands) (Part 43) 1989 Jan 2 1989 Dec 13 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3128 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with Nicholas Ridley, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry) 1989 Sep 5 1990 May 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3369 Government Machinery ​​​​​​​(Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: Next Steps initiative; future of Deregulation Initiative)(Part 35) 1990 Aug 1 1991 Jan 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3574 Transport ​​​​​​​(British Rail: public transport fares in London; British Rail privatisation)​​​​​​​ (Part 11) 1990 Feb 1 1991 Jul 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2773 Middle East​​​​​​​ (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 19) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Nov 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3207 USA ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visits to the USA) (Part 9) 1990 Feb 5 1990 Aug 8 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3411 Jamaica ​​​​​​​(Visits by Jamaican Prime Ministers)(Part 1) 1982 May 1 1991 Jun 30 2017 Jul 20