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
PREM19/4628 Energy (Gas and electricity) (Part 1) Begins: 1984 Aug 6 Ends: 1994 Jun 5 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2584 Agricultural (Agricultural Wages Board) Begins: 1983 Mar 28 Ends: 1989 Jan 22 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2721 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: industrial action by the Prison Officers Association; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 4) Begins: 1987 Nov 2 Ends: 1989 Jan 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1839 Mapower (Employment policy: enterprise and employment measures; feasibility study of a 'Workfare' scheme to replace long term unemployment in UK) (Part 3) Begins: 1985 Aug 5 Ends: 1986 May 30 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4301 Ministers (Travel by Ministers and their families) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Oct 1 Ends: 1993 Jul 30 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1904 Prime Minister (Meetings with the National Pensioners Conventions, February 1982 to March 1986) (part 1) Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1986 Mar 27 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2572 Yemen (Internal situation in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY): evacuation of British subjects and others) Begins: 1980 Apr 22 Ends: 1988 Oct 18 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2582 Aerospace (Air Combat Manoeuvring Installation in the North Sea) Begins: 1989 Apr 23 Ends: 1989 Jun 6 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2331 Morocco (UK/Moroccan relations: visit to UK by King Hassan) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Nov 27 Ends: 1987 Nov 27 Date of release: Date of release: Closed or retained
PREM19/3521 Saudi Arabia ​​​​​​​(Visits of King Fahd) Begins: 1981 Sep 15 Ends: 1991 May 7 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2383 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising proceedings of the House of Commons; establishment of Select Committee) (Part 8) Begins: 1987 Oct 16 Ends: 1988 Nov 29 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1680 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 2) Begins: 1981 Nov 18 Ends: 1986 Jan 31 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2990 Finland (Prime Minister's visit to Helsinki to attend European Democratic Union (EDU) conference, August 1990) Begins: 1990 Aug 13 Ends: 1990 Sep 10 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2937 Defence (Prime Ministers seminar on defence questions, Chequers, 30 September 1989) Begins: 1989 Jul 4 Ends: 1990 Jan 8 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2095 Economic Policy (Indebtedness of various countries; Treasury reports on the international financial scene) (Part 6) Begins: 1986 Mar 20 Ends: 1987 Oct 22 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21