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
PREM19/1914 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Federal Republic of Germany, September 1986: Anglo-German Summit, Bonn, and visit to British Forces Germany; administrative arrangements) 1986 Jan 20 1986 Sep 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2594 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 8) 1989 May 2 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1771 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 14 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2340 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 14) 1988 Jul 1 1988 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3119 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Broome, 7 February 1990: proposed development of Battersea Power Station) 1990 Feb 2 1990 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2470 Royal Family (Proposals relating to the papers concerning the Abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936) 1985 Feb 21 1988 Mar 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1691 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles)) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1611 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Hill MP to discuss Southampton's Docks and Freeport) 1985 May 16 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1348 Prime Minister (Study on future of welfare state by Lord Vaizey and others; meeting with Prime Minister) 1983 Nov 28 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2233 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Mar 20 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2952 Economic Policy (Pay Review Body reports) (Part 10) 1989 Jan 4 1990 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2107 Economic Policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 13) 1984 Oct 4 1987 Jul 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1606 Prime Minister (Radio profile of the Prime Minister by Hugo Young and Anne Sloman of BBC: discouragement of Civil Service participation) 1985 Jan 23 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2657 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; proposed White Paper on the Environment; part 11. Orderable at item level.) (Part 11) 1989 Jun 5 1989 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2120 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: national curriculum; future of Inner London Education Authority (ILEA); financial delegation to schools; financial crisis at University College Cardiff) (Part 13) 1987 May 1 1987 Jul 14 2016 Jul 21 1