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
PREM19/1340 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening) (Part 5) 1982 Oct 27 1984 Oct 31 Retained Retained
PREM19/2999 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 2B) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3066 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 19. Orderable at item level) 1990 May 2 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2230 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 19) 1986 Nov 18 1987 Sep 9 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1645 Soviet Union (Economic relations: control on strategic exports; United States sanctions; sale of Rolls-Royce gas turbines; Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) list review) (Part 2) 1982 Nov 12 1985 Oct 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1258 Government machinery (Appointment of Sir Anthony Parsons and Roger Jackling as advisers to Prime Minister on foreign affairs and defence policy respectively; improvements to joint intelligence machinery post Falklands Conflict) 1982 Aug 6 1984 Jan 18 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2562 United Nations (Special Session on Disarmament, June 1988) (Part 2) 1988 Feb 5 1988 Feb 28 2016 Nov 7
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
PREM19/2025 Broadcasting (Recording and rental of audio and video copyright material; blank tape levy) 1985 Feb 13 1987 Aug 25 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2691 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 6) 1986 Dec 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2415 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Wilson, 8 July 1986: proposed China Trade and Cultural Centre in London Docklands) 1986 Jun 5 1987 Jul 13 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1822 Jordan (UK/Jordanian relations: West Bank study paper by Crown Prince Hassan) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 28 1986 Feb 25 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2317 Manpower (Special employment measures: the Employment Service) (Part 17) 1987 Sep 1 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 1