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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/2775 National Health (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)) (Part 2) Begins: 1987 Jan 14 Ends: 1989 Dec 15 Date of release: 2017-07-20 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 354
PREM19/2118 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; future of polytechnics) (Part 11) Begins: 1987 Jan 22 Ends: 1987 Feb 28 Date of release: 2016-02-19
PREM19/3010 Government Machinery (Departmental summaries of political events) Begins: 1987 Jan 28 Ends: 1990 Mar 9 Date of release: 2016-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 37
PREM19/2631 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 3) Begins: 1987 Jan 29 Ends: 1989 May 18 Date of release: 2016-12-30 File classification: Secret Pages: 337
PREM19/2210 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of functions between departments) Begins: 1987 Jan 30 Ends: 1987 May 21 Date of release: 2015-12-30 File classification: Secret and Personal Pages: 55
PREM19/4221 Home Affairs (Family Policy Group: renewing the values of society) (Part 4) Begins: 1987 Feb 1 Ends: 1993 Oct 29 Date of release: 2018-07-24
PREM19/2397 Prime Minister (Request by Electronic Data Systems to employ Mark Thatcher) Begins: 1987 Feb 1 Ends: 1987 Feb 23 Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2378 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 16) Begins: 1987 Feb 2 Ends: 1987 Oct 29 Date of release: 2016-07-21
PREM19/2165 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 35) Begins: 1987 Feb 2 Ends: 1987 Apr 21 Date of release: 2016-07-21 File classification: Confidential Pages: 338
PREM19/2203 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 23) Begins: 1987 Feb 2 Ends: 1987 Jun 26 Date of release: 2015-12-30 File classification: Confidential and Personal Pages: 292
PREM19/2583 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 7) Begins: 1987 Feb 2 Ends: 1989 Jun 12 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/2233 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 7) Begins: 1987 Feb 2 Ends: 1987 Mar 20 Date of release: 2016-07-21 File classification: Secret Pages: 255
PREM19/2736 Industrial Policy (Information technology (IT): Government policy towards IT) (Part 5) Begins: 1987 Feb 2 Ends: 1989 Mar 7 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/2305 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 6) Begins: 1987 Feb 3 Ends: 1987 Jul 1 Date of release: 2016-02-19 File classification: Secret Pages: 265
PREM19/2539 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 7) Begins: 1987 Feb 3 Ends: 1987 Apr 21 Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department