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
PREM19/246 Government Machinery (Future of Directorate of Overseas Surveys and Centre for Overseas Pest Research) 1979 Jul 19 1980 Feb 8 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/179 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 5) 1980 Sep 23 1980 Oct 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 310
PREM19/339 Prime Minister (Prime Minister’s visit to Dublin, December 1980: administrative arrangements) 1980 Sep 11 1980 Dec 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 58
PREM19/149 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 3) 1980 Apr 24 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 143
PREM19/311 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); industrial action by steel unions; Lord Lever’s inquiry and recommendations for settlement accepted by BSC and Steel Union) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 228
PREM19/279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 5) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Mar 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/212 Defence (Arms control) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 15 2010 Dec 30 1 Top Secret 199
PREM19/378 Trade (Visit by David Howell, Secretary of State for Energy, to Mexico and Venezuela, September 1980; proposed seminar) 1980 Oct 24 1980 Dec 9 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/247 Government Machinery (Ministerial co-ordination of maritime affairs) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/180 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 6) 1980 Oct 31 1980 Nov 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/340 Regional Policy (Establishment of Enterprise Zones; legislative requirements; choice of sites) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 20 1980 Jun 26 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 192
PREM19/150 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 4) 1980 May 8 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 222
PREM19/312 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); BSC finances and future shape under new chairman; problems of private sector steel firms) (Part 7) 1980 Sep 12 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/280 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 May 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 139
PREM19/213 Defence (Arms control) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 18 1979 Aug 24 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 231