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
PREM19/3578 Transport ​​​​​​​(Policy on roads: private finance for roads; Western Orbital Route; motorway service areas)​​​​​​​ (Part 5) 1990 Jan 5 1991 Dec 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2784 Nationalised Industry (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry; nuclear power) (Part 17) 1989 Sep 7 1989 Dec 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3264 Disasters ​​​​​​​(Piper Alpha oil platform explosion, 6 July 1988)(Part 1) 1988 Jul 7 1991 Mar 25 2017 Jul 20 Secret 131
PREM19/3415 Jordan ​​​​​​​(Visits by Crown Prince Hassan) 1983 Jul 1 1991 Mar 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2911 Austria (UK/Austrian relations: internal situation; Waldheim Report) 1981 Dec 24 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3478 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(MPs' pay and pensions)(Part 7) 1987 Dec 1 1991 Dec 20 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 357
PREM19/3317 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Council meeting, Maastricht, December 1991)(Part 39) 1990 Jan 18 1991 Nov 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2609 Cyprus (Internal situation: UK/Cyprus relations) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 4 1989 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3130 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Visits to UK by the Secretary-General of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)) 1982 Oct 21 1990 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3373 Government Machinery ​​​​​​​(Shareholding in British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL): future of BNFL; BNFL pay negotiations) 1981 Feb 19 1991 Jul 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3577 Transport ​​​​​​​(Proposed increase in the driving test fee and changes to the driving test procedure: photographs on driving licences) 1979 Dec 1 1991 Dec 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2778 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): community care) (Part 20) 1989 Mar 2 1989 Apr 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3210 USA ​​​​​​​(UK/USA relations)(Part 7) 1989 May 2 1990 Aug 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3414 Japan ​​​​​​​(Internal situation)(Part 2) 1987 Mar 5 1991 Oct 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2909 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts: private sponsorship of the arts; Wilding Report 'Supporting the Arts') (Part 3) 1987 Jul 31 1990 Apr 10 2017 Jul 20