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 ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3846 Local Government Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities; consultation paper 'Using Water Wisely' (Part 7) 1989 Sep 4 1992 Nov 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3631 Civil Service Rules on the acceptance of business appointments by civil servants following resignation or retirement (Part 2) 1987 Jul 8 1991 Oct 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3844 Local Government Planning controls: Planning and Compensation Bill; Sainsbury Group on Planning Issues; planning policies and the South East​​​​​​​ (Part 8) 1990 Aug 6 1992 Jun 18 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3629 Civil Service Long-term management and manpower policy: financial management; market testing in the Civil Service; Individual Merit Promotion (IMP) Scheme; recruitment​​​​​​​ (Part 22) 1989 Jan 5 1992 Jun 2 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3843 Local Government Pay of water industry workers and local authority manual workers: West Glamorgan Fire Brigade industrial dispute​​​​​​​ (Part 4) 1983 May 3 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3890 Prime Minister Prime Minister John Major's meetings with Margaret Thatcher​​​​​​​ 1990 Dec 26 1992 Feb 5 2017 Dec 29 Secret 19
PREM19/3626 China Visits to the UK by Vice Premiers of China: meetings with Chinese Foreign Ministers 1980 May 8 1992 Nov 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3836 Japan Visit to the UK by Japanese Prime Ministers, Toshiki Kaifu and Kiichi Miyazawa (Part 3) 1990 Mar 1 1992 Jul 21 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3930 Saudi Arabia (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Saudi Ambassador​​​​​​​) 1983 Jun 4 1992 Sep 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3563 Spain ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Spain relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1986 Mar 3 1991 Nov 7 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3624 Canada Calls on the Prime Minister by the Premiers of Canadian Provinces 1979 Aug 6 1992 Feb 7 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3232 Cars ​​​​​​​(Use of the Government Car Service)(Part 2) 1989 Sep 5 1991 Dec 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3835 Japan Visits to the UK by Japanese Ministers for International Trade and Industry​​​​​​​ 1979 May 8 1992 Dec 24 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3558 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; August 1991 coup)(Part 21) 1991 Aug 1 1991 Aug 23 2017 Dec 29 Secret 513
PREM19/3393 India ​​​​​​​(Visit to the UK by Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, October 1985)(Part 3) 1985 Aug 8 1991 Aug 15 2017 Dec 29