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 namesort descending Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3980 USA (Visits to the UK by US Secretaries of Defense, Frank Carlucci and Dick Cheney) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Nov 17 Ends: 1992 Sep 21 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Secret Pages: 107
PREM19/3981 USA (Visit to the UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State) (Part 2) Begins: 1987 Dec 1 Ends: 1992 May 25 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3982 USA (Visits to the UK by Vice Presidents of the USA, George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle) (Part 2) Begins: 1987 Aug 11 Ends: 1992 Feb 14 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Confidential Pages: 247
PREM19/3983 USA (Calls on the Prime Minister by British Ambassadors to Washington) Begins: 1979 Jun 21 Ends: 1992 Apr 30 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Confidential Pages: 49
PREM19/3984 USA (United States nuclear defence strategy: US defence policy) Begins: 1980 Aug 6 Ends: 1992 May 28 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3985 USA (Visits to the UK by US trade representatives) Begins: 1980 Jan 23 Ends: 1991 Jun 7 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Restricted Pages: 9
PREM19/3986 USA (Visits to the UK by Richard Nixon) Begins: 1980 Apr 9 Ends: 1992 May 18 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Confidential Pages: 11
PREM19/3987 Vatican (UK/Vatican relations: internal situation) Begins: 1980 Oct 27 Ends: 1992 Dec 11 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 144
PREM19/3988 Yugoslavia (Visit to the UK by the President (Speaker) of the Yugoslav Federal Assembly (1982); visit of Milan Panic, Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, July 1992) Begins: 1981 Nov 1 Ends: 1992 Jul 29 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Confidential Pages: 25
PREM19/3989 Yugoslavia (Internal situation: UK/Yugoslavia relations) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Oct 21 Ends: 1991 Oct 31 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4003 Agriculture (Retail food price index)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) Begins: 1987 Aug 5 Ends: 1993 Mar 3 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4006 Argentina (Internal situation/relations) (Part 44) Begins: 1990 Jan 30 Ends: 1993 May 27 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4007 Argentina (Defence of the Falkland Islands after repossession) (Part 15) Begins: 1986 Jul 4 Ends: 1993 Dec 20 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4008 Armistice Day (The Prime Minister's attendance at the Remembrance Sunday Ceremony at the Cenotaph) Begins: 1979 Sep 2 Ends: 1993 Sep 1 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4009 Australia (UK/Australian relations: internal situation)(Part 3) Begins: 1990 Jan 7 Ends: 1993 Jul 19 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24