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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2688 Foreign Policy (Consular Fees (Amendment) Bill: increases in consular fees) 1979 Jul 10 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2028 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; Peacock Report on Financing the BBC; BBC proposal for a world television news service) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 1 1987 Feb 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2560 United Nations (Call on Prime Minister by Sir Anthony Parsons, UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, August 1979: valedictory despatch by Sir John Thomson, UK Permanent Representative, April 1987) 1979 Jul 6 1987 Apr 15 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1339 Parliament (House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology: scientific advice to government; engineering research and development) 1979 Nov 12 1984 Oct 16 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3158 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; Scottish Enterprise) (Part 2) 1988 Dec 1 1990 Nov 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2355 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 15) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3072 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle East countries) (Part 4) 1984 Nov 8 1990 Aug 31
PREM19/2048 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 13) 1987 Nov 3 1987 Dec 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2880 Trade (Britain's international trading policies: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round; export promotion) (Part 6) 1987 Feb 18 1989 Aug 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2200 Government Machinery (Future of Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) and nuclear Royal Ordnance Factories; privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories) 1980 Sep 22 1988 Jul 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1781 Government Machinery (Non-dePartmental public bodies (quangos): review programme) (Part 3) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Sep 9 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2631 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 3) 1987 Jan 29 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1964 Social Services (National Insurance contributions review; National Insurance surcharge; Redundancy Fund) 1979 Nov 5 1985 Nov 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2460 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to USA and Jamaica, July 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 12 1987 Sep 4 2016 Jul 21 7
PREM19/2317 Manpower (Special employment measures: the Employment Service) (Part 17) 1987 Sep 1 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 1