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.


File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/1867 Nationalised Industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 3) Begins: 1984 Jun 1 Ends: 1986 Apr 29 Date of release: 2016-02-19
PREM19/1602 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Field Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall, retiring Chief of the Defence Staff) Begins: 1982 Sep 7 Ends: 1985 Nov 2 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/2115 Education (Education seminar held by the Prime Minister at Downing Street, 2 October 1985) Begins: 1985 Aug 30 Ends: 1986 Jan 1 Date of release: 2015-12-30
PREM19/1611 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Hill MP to discuss Southampton's Docks and Freeport) Begins: 1985 May 16 Ends: 1985 Oct 14 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/2964 Environmental Affairs (North Sea Conference) Begins: 1984 Oct 31 Ends: 1990 Jul 4 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/3917 Royal Family (Marriage and separation of Prince Andrew) Begins: 1986 Mar 1 Ends: 1992 Mar 21 Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4409 Qatar (UK/Qatar relations: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1982 Feb 15 Ends: 1993 Dec 14 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/2587 Arts and Amenities (Preservation of the Rose Theatre) Begins: 1989 May 9 Ends: 1989 Jun 12 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/2685 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Morocco, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Namibia, March-April 1989) (Part 1) Begins: 1989 Jan 20 Ends: 1989 Mar 21 Date of release: 2018-07-24
PREM19/2712 Government Machinery (The Central Office of Information (COI) and the future of the Information Services: Government advertising expenditure; repayment for services provided by the COI) Begins: 1979 May 18 Ends: 1989 May 11 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/1572 Mozambique (Visits to UK by President Samora Machel: meetings with Prime Minister) Begins: 1981 Jun 24 Ends: 1985 Sep 28 Date of release: 2014-12-30 Any docs withheld? 1
PREM19/4711 Home Affairs (30-year rule retentions) Begins: 1979 Nov 26 Ends: 1994 Feb 24 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/2071 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA); Chieftain tank replacement;) (Part 6) Begins: 1988 Apr 1 Ends: 1988 Oct 26 Date of release: 2016-07-21
PREM19/1794 Home Affairs (Animal welfare matters) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jun 6 Ends: 1986 Sep 25 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/1988 Trade (Inward investment; review of overseas promotion) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 Feb 17 Ends: 1986 Jul 17 Date of release: 2016-02-19


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