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
PREM19/3390 Housing ​​​​​​​(Housing policy)(Part 17) 1990 Jul 1 1991 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3229 Cabinet ​​​​​​​(Forward look for Cabinet and Cabinet committee business)(Part 3) 1986 Jan 17 1991 Jan 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3276 Economic Policy ​​​​​​​(Financial services: report of the Review Committee on Banking Services Law; Stock Exchange; company investigations; Diamond Report, 'A Review of Security Interests in Property' other than land)(Part 6) 1989 Feb 7 1991 Dec 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3514 Regional Policy ​​​​​​​(Review of regional policy: Enterprise Zones; Lanarkshire)(Part 8) 1987 Jan 6 1991 Apr 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3346 France ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visits to France: Anglo-French Summits)(Part 7) 1989 Mar 1 1991 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3548 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(Contacts with and calls by Soviet Ambassadors)​​​​​​​ 1979 Sep 18 1991 Dec 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3600 Environmental Affairs ​​​​​​​Policy on waste disposal and sewage 1989 Jun 30 1991 Apr 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3227 Cabinet ​​​​​​​(Arrangements for Cabinet business)(Part 20) 1990 Sep 5 1991 Jan 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3438 Memoirs ​​​​​​​(Policy on Ministerial memoirs: Sir Alan Walters' book 'Sterling in Danger'; 'Downing Street Cook - Recipes from the Thatcher Years')(Part 2) 1988 Sep 16 1991 Feb 6 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3275 Economic Policy ​​​​​​​(Economic Summits: 'Sherpa' papers)(Part 4) 1988 Aug 2 1991 Apr 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3512 Regional Policy ​​​​​​​(Inner cities policy and problems: Action for Cities; regeneration of London Docklands)(Part 17) 1989 Aug 1 1991 Apr 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3344 France ​​​​​​​(Anglo-French relations)(Part 5) 1988 Dec 8 1991 Feb 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3545 South Africa ​​​​​​​(UK/South Africa relations: internal situation)​​​​​​​ (Part 23) 1990 Jun 1 1991 Mar 4 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3599 Environmental Affairs ​​​​​​​Car exhaust emission standards 1989 Mar 21 1991 Dec 5 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3226 Cabinet ​​​​​​​(Attendance at Cabinet meetings: invitees and absences)(Part 5) 1987 Jun 18 1991 Jul 19 2017 Jul 20