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 ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3648 Defence (UK strategic nuclear deterrent: nuclear test programme)​​​​​​​ (Part 10) 1990 Nov 6 1992 May 12 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3940 Security (Policy on interception of communications)(Part 7) 1988 Feb 29 1992 Aug 20 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1997 USA (Visits to UK by Vice President George Bush; discussions on extraterritoriality and terrorism) 1981 Jun 11 1985 Jul 3 Temporarily retained by department
PREM19/1998 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, November 1986) (Part 6) 1986 Oct 22 1986 Nov 17 Temporarily retained by department Retained under Section 3:4
PREM19/3521 Saudi Arabia ​​​​​​​(Visits of King Fahd) 1981 Sep 15 1991 May 7 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1999 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 4) 1985 Jun 3 1986 May 31 Temporarily retained by department
PREM19/3398 Iraq (Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry)) (Part 2) 1990 Jun 21 1991 Jun 30 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2000 USA (US foreign policy: US/European relations) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 3 1986 Dec 30 Temporarily retained by department
PREM19/3565 Spain ​​​​​​​(Visits of the Spanish Prime Ministers, Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo and his successor Felipe Gonzalez)​​​​​​​ 1981 Aug 17 1991 May 8 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3234 China (UK/Chinese relations) (Part 5) 1987 May 22 1991 Feb 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3931 Saudi Arabia (Visits to the UK by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal)​​​​​​​(Part 16) 1982 Jun 7 1992 Aug 3 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2001 USA (Visits to UK by US Defense Secretary, Caspar Weinberger: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 8 1986 Dec 9 Temporarily retained by department
PREM19/1974 Soviet Union (Soviet tank developments) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 1 1986 Apr 11 Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/3644 Defence (Defence sales)​​​​​​​ (Part 13) 1990 Jul 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3929 Saudi Arabia (UK/Saudi relations: internal situation) (Part 5) 1990 Apr 6 1992 Jun 29 Temporarily Retained by Department


  • «
  • <
  • Page
  • of 249
  • >
  • »