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
PREM19/3171 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK; release of Nelson Mandela) (Part 21) Begins: 1989 Nov 1 Ends: 1990 Feb 28 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 10 File classification: Secret Cab One Pages: 493
PREM19/2031 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; Broadcasting White Paper) (Part 6) Begins: 1988 Jan 4 Ends: 1988 Sep 30 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19 File classification: Confidential Pages: 494
PREM19/1408 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald; Anglo-Irish Summits) (Part 7) Begins: 1983 Nov 1 Ends: 1984 Nov 23 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 495
PREM19/1517 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 18) Begins: 1985 May 7 Ends: 1985 Jul 30 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 500
PREM19/1477 Environmental Affairs (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution: effects of acid rain; agriculture and conservation) (Part 3) Begins: 1984 Nov 2 Ends: 1985 May 30 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 503
PREM19/2655 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Prime Minister's seminar on the global climate, April 1989) (Part 9) Begins: 1989 Apr 2 Ends: 1989 Apr 28 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 511
PREM19/3558 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; August 1991 coup) (Part 21) Begins: 1991 Aug 1 Ends: 1991 Aug 23 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Secret Pages: 513
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 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 519
PREM19/1789 Home Affairs (The behaviour of British football fans abroad: soccer hooliganism; Popplewell Report on crowd safety and control at sports grounds) (Part 5) Begins: 1985 Aug 1 Ends: 1986 Aug 8 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 530
PREM19/3567 Sport (British bid to host the Olympic Games in 1992 or later: bids by Birmingham and Manchester) (Part 1) Begins: 1985 Feb 25 Ends: 1991 Nov 26 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 548
PREM19/250 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 2) Begins: 1980 Jul 7 Ends: 1980 Nov 28 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 549
PREM19/1175 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; senior management programme; financial management in government departments) (Part 15) Begins: 1984 Jan 24 Ends: 1984 Jun 29 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Confidential Pages: 552
PREM19/3594 Economic Policy (Indebtedness of various countries: Treasury reports on international debt) (Part 8) Begins: 1989 Jul 7 Ends: 1991 Oct 31 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 560
PREM19/418 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 13) Begins: 1980 Nov 25 Ends: 1981 Feb 16 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 575
PREM19/3669 Economic Policy (Competition policy: restrictive trade practices policy; abuse of market power)​​​​​​ (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Mar 3 Ends: 1992 Jan 24 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Secret Pages: 583