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
PREM19/839 Manpower (Prime Minister's meeting with delegation from Jobs for Youth campaign) 1981 Aug 24 1982 Jan 19 2012 Dec 28 1 Unclassified 53
PREM19/811 Industrial policy (Financial difficulties of Fodens Ltd, Sandbach: local employment consequences) 1979 Jul 10 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Unclassified 57
PREM19/103 Prime Minister (Meeting with British Council of Churches Oct 1979) 1979 May 9 1979 Oct 17 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 41
PREM19/904 Science and Technology (Presentation on information technology) 1982 Feb 18 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 47
PREM19/965 Civil service (Lecture on the Civil Service given by Sir John Hoskyns) 1982 Oct 15 1982 Dec 9 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 55
PREM19/2398 Prime Minister (Submission of papers to the Prime Minister prior to trips abroad and recesses) 1979 Jul 17 1986 Jul 7 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 22
PREM19/905 Scotland (Scottish Milk Marketing Board (SMMB): correspondence with Dr W G Jack about SMMB’s decision to extend the operation of its tanker fleet) 1979 Sep 26 1982 Jan 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 161
PREM19/436 Economic policy (Correspondence from John Sparrow on financial and economic policy; meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 May 25 1982 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 Unclassified 170
PREM19/907 Security (German occupation of the Channel Islands: allegations by Solomon Steckoll against Channel Islands officials) 1980 Sep 24 1982 Mar 11 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 27
PREM19/2402 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Allen Adams MP to discuss Babcock Power, 20 January 1987) 1986 Dec 23 1987 Jan 20 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 14
PREM19/315 Nationalised Industries (Correspondence with Alan Newman Ltd about contract for conversion of liner into floating hotel: negative response from Harland and Wolff and British Shipbuilders) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Aug 4 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 14
PREM19/1159 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; report by Professor Patrick Minford, 'UK unemployment - analysis and policy proposals') (Part 8B) 1982 Sep 6 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 178
PREM19/845 Ministers (Lord President's participation in BBC Radio 4 programme on the Privy Council) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 6
PREM19/1160 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; annexes to report by Professor Patrick Minford, 'UK unemployment - analysis and policy proposals') (Part 8C) 1982 Sep 6 1983 Jan 29 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 355
PREM19/2240 Housing (Prime Minister's meeting with Professor Alice Coleman to discuss housing design: subsequent action) 1987 Dec 18 1988 Mar 9 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 24