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
PREM19/4129 European Policy (Direct elections to the European Parliament: size of European Parliament) (Part 2) Begins: 1984 Jun 12 Ends: 1993 Mar 30 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4131 European Policy (Enlargement of European Community: applications of Portugal and Spain; possible application from Turkey; accession of Greece) (Part 3) Begins: 1985 Sep 2 Ends: 1993 May 24 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24 File classification: Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 302
PREM19/4143 European Policy (Aligning of summertime dates in the Community) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 May 3 Ends: 1993 Sep 22 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4152 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues) (Part 5) Begins: 1990 Feb 5 Ends: 1993 Feb 22 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4155 France (French foreign policy) (Part 2) Begins: 1989 Mar 13 Ends: 1993 Jun 17 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4162 Germany (Internal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 Apr 1 Ends: 1993 Feb 28 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4165 Germany (German foreign policy) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jul 1 Ends: 1993 Jun 24 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4169 Government Buildings (Allocation of official residences) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 7 Ends: 1993 May 28 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4170 Government Buildings (Fire at Hampton Court Palace, 31 March 1986: fire at Windsor Castle, 20 November 1992) (Part 1) Begins: 1986 Mar 31 Ends: 1993 Apr 30 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24 Any docs withheld? 11 File classification: Confidential Pages: 287
PREM19/4172 Government Buildings (Building of international conference centre on Broad Sanctuary site: restoration of Westminster area; Richmond Yard) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Nov 7 Ends: 1993 Mar 15 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4178 Government Machinery (Civil Contingencies Unit reports: emergency powers legislation; withstanding strikes in key sectors of the economy) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Oct 2 Ends: 1993 Dec 13 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4180 Government Machinery (Amalgamation of the Departments of Trade and Industry) Begins: 1983 Jun 8 Ends: 1993 Apr 24 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4195 Greece (Greek/Turkish relations) Begins: 1988 Feb 1 Ends: 1993 Jun 15 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4196 Greece (UK/Greek relations: internal situation) (Part 2) Begins: 1987 Apr 3 Ends: 1993 Oct 27 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4197 Guatemala (Internal situation/relations) (Part 1) Begins: 1985 Oct 27 Ends: 1993 Jun 14 Date of release: 2018 Sep 6