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 classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/1131 Security (Evacuation from Iran) Begins: 1982 Jul 1 Ends: 1983 Mar 1 Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/1999 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 4) Begins: 1985 Jun 3 Ends: 1986 May 31 Date of release: Temporarily retained by department
PREM19/2515 Security (The Hijacking Declaration of the Bonn Summit, July 1978: prevention of international terrorist activity) (Part 5) Begins: 1986 Jun 2 Ends: 1988 May 25 Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1729 Education (Teachers’ pay) (Part 5) Begins: 1985 Aug 1 Ends: 1985 Dec 23 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/4463 Togo (UK/Togo relations: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Jan 7 Ends: 1993 Jun 15 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/3004 Germany (Prime Minister's meeting with Lothar de Maiziere, Prime Minister of the Germany Democratic Republic, June 1990) Begins: 1990 May 31 Ends: 1990 Jun 27 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/2241 Immigration (Immigration Rules) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Apr 7 Ends: 1987 Oct 30 Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/4215 Home Affairs (Open Government) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Jun 1 Ends: 1993 Jan 29 Date of release: 2018-07-24
PREM19/3005 Germany (Visits to the UK by Richard von Weizsacker, President of the Federal Republic of Germany) Begins: 1986 Feb 3 Ends: 1990 Oct 1 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/2867 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Soviet Deputy Prime Ministers: Leonid Konstandov, Vladimir Kamentsev and Aleksandra Biryukova) Begins: 1983 Sep 23 Ends: 1989 Jul 26 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/2046 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 11) Begins: 1986 Sep 4 Ends: 1987 Oct 8 Date of release: 2016-07-21
PREM19/2698 Germany (Visits to the UK by Governing Mayors of Berlin: Dietrich Stobb, Richard von Weizsacker, Eberhard Diepgen and Walter Momper) Begins: 1979 Mar 2 Ends: 1989 May 4 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/1824 Lebanon (United States concerns) Begins: 1983 Sep 15 Ends: 1986 Apr 23 Date of release: Reconsideration in 2025
PREM19/3649 Defence (The Mildenhall Agreement) (Part 1) Begins: 1977 Mar 11 Ends: 1992 Apr 16 Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
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


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