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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1277 Industrial policy (Micro-electronics industry; support for Inmos Ltd (INMOS)) (Part 2) 1980 May 1 1984 Mar 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/939 United Nations (Election of United Nations Secretary-General) 1981 May 5 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 106
PREM19/389 Agriculture (Liquid milk prices) 1979 May 16 1981 Mar 11 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 168
PREM19/562 Posts and telecommunications (Post Office: postal and telecommunications monopoly (possible reference to Monopolies and Mergers Commission); Post Office pay, pricing and finances; British Telecommunications Bill) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 7 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 158
PREM19/2711 Government Machinery (Procedure for public appointments) 1979 May 8 1989 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2143 European Policy (European Community telecommunications: Research for an Advanced Communications Environment (RACE)) 1985 Mar 19 1986 Nov 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2777 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): community care) (Part 21) 1989 May 2 1989 Jun 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1532 Hong Kong (Power projects in Hong Kong and China involving UK companies: Castle Peak power station in Hong Kong; Guandong nuclear power project) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 2 1985 Dec 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 300
PREM19/1196 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 10) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 485
PREM19/859 Overseas aid (Development policy; aid framework 1981-1982 to 1983-1984; UK contribution to International Development Association) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 19 1982 Mar 31 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 287
PREM19/89 Legal procedure (Authority to order drafting of Bills) 1979 May 17 1979 May 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 5
PREM19/2455 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, March-April 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1986 Sep 29 1987 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2640 Economic Policy (Vehicle Excise Duty) 1979 May 14 1989 May 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1795 Home Affairs (Review of the law on public order) (Part 2) 1985 Feb 12 1986 May 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1452 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 31) 1984 Dec 17 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30