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
PREM19/3091 Mozambique (Internal situation: aid programme; relations with the UK) Begins: 1979 Aug 2 Ends: 1990 Mar 23 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Top Secret - Cab One Pages: 360
PREM19/950 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 32) Begins: 1982 Dec 1 Ends: 1983 Mar 2 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 Any docs withheld? 17 File classification: Secret Pages: 360
PREM19/278 Iraq (Internal situation: relations with Iran; escalation of conflict; impact of Iraq/Iran hostilities on oil market) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Sep 27 Ends: 1980 Sep 30 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 361
PREM19/3394 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations legislation: strikes in essential services; Green Paper 'Industrial Relations in the 1990s') (Part 16) Begins: 1989 Sep 6 Ends: 1991 Nov 25 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Secret Pages: 361
PREM19/2341 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 15) Begins: 1988 Oct 3 Ends: 1988 Nov 9 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Secret Pages: 361
PREM19/1283 Iraq (Internal situation; Iran-Iraq War; threat to Gulf oil supplies) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Jun 28 Ends: 1984 Feb 29 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 361
PREM19/1554 Italy (Italian PM visits to UK; Anglo/Italian Summit, October 1984) (Part 3) Begins: 1983 Sep 1 Ends: 1985 Dec 19 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 361
PREM19/2580 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 40) Begins: 1988 Jul 5 Ends: 1988 Dec 13 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 361
PREM19/3082 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 29) Begins: 1990 Sep 14 Ends: 1990 Sep 29 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 16 File classification: Secret Pages: 362
PREM19/1552 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 11) Begins: 1985 Nov 1 Ends: 1985 Nov 14 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret and Personal Pages: 362
PREM19/1345 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: proposals for Post Office counters network; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; British Telecom (BT) licence; Mercury Communications Ltd) (Part 8) Begins: 1984 Jan 12 Ends: 1984 Jul 31 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Secret Pages: 362
PREM19/3578 Transport (Policy on roads: private finance for roads; Western Orbital Route; motorway service areas)​​​​​​​ (Part 5) Begins: 1990 Jan 5 Ends: 1991 Dec 23 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 362
PREM19/1544 Iraq (Visits to UK by Iraqi Deputy Prime Ministers, Taha Ramadhan and Tariq Aziz (also Foreign Minister): meetings with Prime Minister) Begins: 1981 Nov 23 Ends: 1985 Dec 12 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 362
PREM19/2862 South Africa (Situation in Namibia) (Part 4) Begins: 1986 Mar 3 Ends: 1989 Apr 29 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Secret - Cab One Pages: 363
PREM19/1370 Science and technology (Prime Minister’s seminar on science, technology, and industry, September 1983) (Part 1) Begins: 1982 Dec 22 Ends: 1984 Feb 2 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Confidential Pages: 364