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
PREM19/1610 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Frank Field MP on the proposed closure of Manchester Steel's Bidston works) 1985 May 9 1985 Jun 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2131 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA): opting out of ILEA by London boroughs; contingency plans for abolition) (Part 5) 1987 Aug 20 1988 Jun 23 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2973 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 19) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2258 Industrial Policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) (Part 3) 1984 Apr 2 1987 May 7 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2056 Defence (Arms control) (Part 13) 1987 Jun 15 1987 Nov 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2596 Broadcasting (Prime Minister's seminar on broadcasting, 21 September 1987; follow-up action) (Part 2) 1987 Sep 22 1989 Aug 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1361 Prime Minister tours abroad (G7 Summit - London; 40th anniversary of D-Day: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1982 Nov 26 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2381 Parliament (Procedure for the Eve of Parliament Dinner) 1979 May 9 1987 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2078 Drugs (Drugs misuse: Visit to South America by David Mellor, Minister of State at the Home Office; cooperation between Police and Customs) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 2 1987 May 15 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2918 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 11) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2221 Home Affairs (Government grants to National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux) 1983 Apr 12 1988 Nov 15 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1238 Foreign policy (United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNLOSC)) (Part 2) 1983 Jan 12 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1454 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 33) 1985 Oct 1 1985 Nov 26 2015 Jul 16
PREM19/1803 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland/Rover Group) (Part 12) 1986 May 1 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2668 European Policy (European Council meeting, Strasbourg, December 1989) (Part 35) 1989 Nov 3 1989 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30