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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1656 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 3) 1984 Feb 9 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1315 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 13 1984 Oct 22 2014 Sep 29 Secret 375
PREM19/2415 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Wilson, 8 July 1986: proposed China Trade and Cultural Centre in London Docklands) 1986 Jun 5 1987 Jul 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/977 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 9) 1982 Jul 6 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221
PREM19/1895 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Marek MP to discuss proposed closure by Courtaulds of Wrexham dicell acetate yarn manufacturing plant) 1985 Apr 24 1986 Jun 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2552 Trade (UK's international trade policies: non-tariff barriers and restraints on imports; consideration of export problems; recycling of OPEC surpluses) (Part 5) 1985 Jul 1 1987 Jan 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/707 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 11) 1981 Dec 3 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 229
PREM19/371 South Africa (Internal situation) Part 1 1979 Jun 18 1980 Aug 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/229 European Policy (EEC food exports to Soviet Union; sales of subsidised butter) 1979 Sep 3 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 80
PREM19/3060 Kenya (Relations between Kenya and Uganda) 1979 Sep 24 1990 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2328 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 18) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1235 Foreign policy (Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) assessments summaries produced by Sir Percy Cradock) 1983 Mar 16 1984 Nov 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
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
PREM19/628 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 17) 1982 May 15 1982 May 17 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 153
PREM19/1491 European Policy (European Council meeting, Milan, June 1985) (Part 21) 1985 May 10 1985 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 276