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 Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/2905 Agriculture (Salmonella and eggs) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Apr 6 Ends: 1990 Nov 23 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/4329 NATO (NATO policy) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Apr 10 Ends: 1993 Oct 12 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/3090 Ministers (Presence of Ministers in the House of Commons) Begins: 1990 Apr 11 Ends: 1990 Apr 18 Date of release: 2017-07-20 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 6
PREM19/4495 USA (United States foreign policy: USA/European relations) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 Apr 25 Ends: 1993 May 24 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/3319 European Policy (European Council meeting, Luxembourg, June 1991) (Part 38A) Begins: 1990 Apr 27 Ends: 1991 Jun 16 Date of release: 2017-07-20 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Confidential Pages: 384
PREM19/3610 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts: private sponsorship of the arts) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 May 1 Ends: 1992 Dec 22 Date of release: 2017-12-29 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 259
PREM19/2976 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 46) Begins: 1990 May 1 Ends: 1990 Jun 29 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/3332 Food (Food safety) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 May 1 Ends: 1991 Aug 9 Date of release: 2017-07-20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 116
PREM19/4227 Hong Kong (Future of the Governor of Hong Kong) (Part 1) Begins: 1990 May 1 Ends: 1993 Feb 2 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/2983 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 7) Begins: 1990 May 1 Ends: 1990 Jun 27 Date of release: 2018-06-05 File classification: Secret Pages: 382
PREM19/3099 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 19) Begins: 1990 May 1 Ends: 1990 Nov 15 Date of release: 2016-12-30 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Secret Pages: 260
PREM19/2968 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper) (Part 16) Begins: 1990 May 1 Ends: 1990 Jun 29 Date of release: 2016-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 191
PREM19/3532 Security ​​​​​​​(Security of the Secret Service)​​​​​​​ (Part 14) Begins: 1990 May 1 Ends: 1991 Jun 27 Date of release: Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3066 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 19) Begins: 1990 May 2 Ends: 1990 Jun 29 Date of release: 2016-12-30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 519
PREM19/3274 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 22) Begins: 1990 May 3 Ends: 1991 May 31 Date of release: 2017-07-20 File classification: Secret Pages: 271