Large scale document archive

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 releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/2863 South Africa (Visit to UK by F W de Klerk, leader of the South African National Party, June 1989) 1980 Feb 12 1989 Jul 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3235 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 5) 1990 Mar 1 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 387
PREM19/3467 Netherlands (Internal situation: UK/Dutch relations) (Part 1) 1980 Sep 16 1991 Nov 7 2017 Jul 20 4 Confidential 319
PREM19/3032 Housing (Housing policy: homelessness) (Part 16) 1989 Jul 3 1990 Jun 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3278 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - London, July 1991) (Part 31) 1988 Aug 22 1991 Mar 29 2017 Jul 20 5 Confidential 249
PREM19/3113 Posts and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: sale of Girobank; Telecommunications Duopoly Review) (Part 12) 1989 Jan 23 1990 Jun 20 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 289
PREM19/3112 Police (Police policy) (Part 3) 1989 Jan 23 1990 Jun 29 2017 Jul 20 Secret 162
PREM19/3355 Germany (Replacement of Federal German Ambassadors in London: Prime Minister's meetings with FRG Ambassadors​​​​​​​) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1991 Feb 19 2017 Jul 20 3 Confidential 46
PREM19/2739 Industrial Policy (Ports: abolition of the National Dock Labour Scheme; industrial action in the ports) (Part 14) 1987 Jul 3 1989 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20 Secret 295
PREM19/3195 Transport (Severn Bridge: Second Severn Crossing) 1982 Jun 14 1990 Mar 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 307
PREM19/3397 Industrial Policy (Future of Wages Councils) (Part 4) 1990 Feb 5 1991 May 13 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 15
PREM19/2862 South Africa (Situation in Namibia) (Part 4) 1986 Mar 3 1989 Apr 29 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret - Cab One 363
PREM19/3466 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 5) 1990 Jun 1 1991 Oct 30 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 215
PREM19/3019 Government Machinery ( Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 34) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Oct 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3288 Economic Policy (Public expenditure and cash limits) (Part 45) 1990 Sep 4 1991 Mar 23 2017 Jul 20 Secret 284