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
PREM19/875 Posts and telecommunications (Future of Post Office: liberalisation of telecommunications monopoly; British Telecom's investment programme; BT and postal tariff increases) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 4 1982 Mar 16 2013 Sep 24 Top Secret 282
PREM19/539 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 15 1981 Mar 4 2011 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/199 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 20 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 36
PREM19/2481 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; draft White Paper on Scottish Enterprise) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 25 1988 Nov 30 2016 Nov 7
PREM19/1990 Transport (London Regional Transport) (Part 1) 1983 Nov 3 1986 Nov 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2669 European Policy (European Council meeting, Strasbourg, December 1989) (Part 36) 1989 Dec 12 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1810 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 13) 1985 Dec 1 1986 Feb 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1467 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Bonn) (Part 18) 1984 Sep 7 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/118 Royal family (Security of HMQ during visit to Lusaka CHOGM) 1979 May 9 1979 Jul 27 Temporarily Retained by Department Unknown
PREM19/1133 Security (Possible steps to overcome the change of culture towards leaks of government documents) 1983 Jun 16 1983 Jun 18 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 5
PREM19/796 Iceland (Visit to UK by President Vigdis Finnbogadottir, February 1982: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Jun 25 1982 Feb 21 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 99
PREM19/460 European policy (Report by the 'Three Wise Men' on European Community institutions) 1979 Mar 13 1981 Jun 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/2385 Poland (Prime Minister's visit to Poland, November 1988) (Part 1) 1988 Mar 29 1988 Oct 31 2016 Jul 21 Secret CAB ONE 293
PREM19/1273 India (UK/Indian relations) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 22 1984 Feb 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2517 Security (Procedure for dealing with suspicious letters and parcels received at 10 Downing Street: letter bombs) (Part 1) 1968 Sep 25 1986 Jan 20 Retained Retained Sec 3.4