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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3259 Defence ​​​​​​​(Biological and chemical weapons: policy and export controls)(Part 2) 1989 Jan 1 1991 May 30 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3254 Defence ​​​​​​​(Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe: nuclear deterrence in Europe)(Part 7) 1989 Jun 4 1991 May 21 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3249 Defence ​​​​​​​(Future UK defence policy)(Part 5) 1990 Aug 9 1991 Jan 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3261 Defence ​​​​​​​(Intelligence gathering operations)(Part 5) 1989 Jul 1 1991 Oct 24 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3253 Defence ​​​​​​​(Manpower level of the British Army of the Rhine (BOAR)) 1980 Jun 27 1991 Aug 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3257 Defence ​​​​​​​(Review of home defence: civil and military home defence)(Part 2) 1982 Mar 3 1984 Aug 9 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3256 Defence ​​​​​​​(Review of home defence: civil and military home defence)(Part 3) 1985 Mar 14 1991 Mar 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3258 Defence ​​​​​​​(Servicemen's housing)(Part 1) 1989 Feb 28 1991 Nov 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3252 Defence ​​​​​​​(The Defence Budget: Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1988-1991)(Part 13) 1987 Jul 10 1991 Feb 10 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3653 Denmark ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Denmark relations) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 26 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3654 Denmark ​​​​​​​(Visits to the UK by Poul Schluter, Prime Minister of Denmark) 1982 Jul 1 1992 Oct 1 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3655 Disasters (Attack on Korean Airlines Boeing 747 by a Soviet fighter plane, 1 September 1983) 1983 Sep 1 1983 Nov 1 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3656 Disasters (Chernobyl: Soviet nuclear accident, 26 April 1986) (Part 1) 1986 Apr 29 1992 Sep 21 2017 Dec 29 9 Top Secret 299
PREM19/2620 Disasters (Disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, 15 April 1989) (Part 1) 1989 Apr 15 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 289
PREM19/1699 Disasters (Ethiopian famine relief) 1984 Oct 25 1986 Jan 1 2014 Dec 30