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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/2664 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 43) 1989 Oct 2 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1368 Royal family (Princess Margaret's proposed visit to China for Royal Ballet performance; Duke of Edinburgh's visit to China as President of World Wildlife Fund (WWF)) 1982 Aug 5 1984 Jan 30 2014 Nov 28
PREM19/2380 Parliament (Parliamentary Secretary's minutes on forthcoming Parliamentary affairs) (Part 2) 1985 Jul 3 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/607 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; understandings between the USA and UK on use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 2) 1980 Apr 29 1981 Mar 9 Retained Unknown
PREM19/1629 Security (Possible penetration of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Confidential communications) 1982 Mar 4 1985 Dec 6 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2513 Security (Case of Michael Bettaney and the ensuing review of the Security Service) 1986 Jun 2 1988 Nov 8 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1289 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 18) 1984 Nov 1 1984 Dec 18 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2288 Jordan (Prime Minister's messages to King Hussein on births of his children) 1980 Apr 1 1986 Feb 12 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2999 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 2B) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2230 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 19) 1986 Nov 18 1987 Sep 9 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2958 Education (Student loans) (Part 3) 1990 Jan 10 1990 Apr 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2182 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, November 1986 and March and July 1987) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 21 1987 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2857 Social Services (Long-term strategy for social security operations) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 24 1989 Jun 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2038 Civil Service (Contracts of employment; possible legislation to enable civil servants to be laid off without pay; Civil Service nationality rules; responsibility for discipline in the Civil Service) 1980 Jun 27 1987 Jul 7 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1129 Security (Publication of book containing accounts of National Security Agency) 1982 Mar 14 1983 May 5 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown