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.


File name Title Begins Ends Date of releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3108 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 19) 1989 Oct 2 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 444
PREM19/3351 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 6) 1990 Oct 15 1991 Jul 9 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 301
PREM19/2731 Housing​​​​​​​ (Reform of housing benefits) 1980 Jun 24 1989 May 4 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3189 Trade (Chambers of Commerce) 1989 Nov 16 1990 Feb 21 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 4
PREM19/3395 Industrial Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Confederation of British Industry (CBI): correspondence on the Government's economic strategy) (Part 5) 1985 Jun 1 1991 Jul 24 2017 Jul 20 Secret 239
PREM19/3599 Environmental Affairs (Car exhaust emission standards) 1989 Mar 21 1991 Dec 5 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 87
PREM19/2860 South Africa (UK/South Africa relations: internal situation) (Part 19) 1989 Apr 6 1989 Aug 31 2017 Jul 20 12 Top Secret 330
PREM19/3464 National Health (Nurses' pay: nurses clinical regrading exercise) (Part 4) 1988 Aug 11 1990 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20 Secret 334
PREM19/3016 Government Machinery (Machinery of government changes: organisation at the centre; Whitehall reorganisation) (Part 7) 1987 May 8 1990 Jun 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3291 Economic Policy (Speeches by the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 16 1991 Jul 2 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 381
PREM19/3517 Royal Family (Prince of Wales' proposed visit to India, and Princess of Wales' proposed visit to Pakistan) 1980 Jun 1 1991 Jul 12 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 14
PREM19/3107 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: Select Committees) (Part 10) 1989 Apr 7 1990 May 29 2017 Jul 20 Confidential - not for NAO eyes 397
PREM19/3350 Germany (Chancellor Schmidt's visit to Moscow, June-July 1980: relations between Federal Republic of Germany and USSR) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 14 1991 Feb 11 2017 Jul 20 4 Secret 107
PREM19/2728 Hong Kong​​​​​​​ (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 21) 1989 Mar 2 1989 Jul 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3188 Switzerland (Visit to the UK of the Swiss Foreign Minister Pierre Aubert (April 1984) and his successor Rene Felber (February 1990)) 1984 Jan 31 1990 Feb 15 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 55