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
PREM19/3075 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 22) 1990 Aug 7 1990 Aug 12 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/2205 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 25) 1987 Nov 13 1988 Jan 13 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1847 Defence (Higher organisation for defence) 1984 Feb 24 1986 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 5
PREM19/2900 Aerospace (The fourth and fifth terminals for Heathrow Airport: developments at Heathrow) 1979 Dec 3 1990 Jan 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2586 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Sieff to discuss the possible acquisition of the Royal Dental Hospital site by the National Portrait Gallery: future of the National Portrait Gallery) 1986 Aug 26 1989 Apr 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2056 Defence (Arms control) (Part 13) 1987 Jun 15 1987 Nov 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2723 Home Affairs (Race relations: Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) draft Code of Practice; scrutiny of grants under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966) (Part 1) 1980 May 14 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1768 Government Buildings (Edward Erdman Surveyors report on the redevelopment of the Bridge Street site) 1983 Feb 1 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2425 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the World Leadership of Soviet Jewry and the 'Mothers of Freedom') 1983 Sep 12 1987 May 4 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1905 Prime Minister (Meetings with David Clark MP and Don Dixon MP about closure of Plessey factory in South Shields) 1984 Mar 26 1986 Jun 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2576 Zimbabwe (Possible purchase of UK military aircraft) 1987 Feb 18 1987 Jul 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1345 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: proposals for Post Office counters network; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; British Telecom (BT) licence; Mercury Communications Ltd) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 12 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2333 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS)) (Part 7) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3089 Ministers (Prime Minister's meetings with Junior Ministers) 1979 Jun 6 1990 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2395 Prime Minister (Cementation contract: Mark Thatcher and the Omanis) (Part 1) 1981 May 4 1988 Mar 9 Retained Closed for 65 years