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
PREM19/4199 Histories (Policy on commemorations of World War One and Two) (Part 1) Begins: 1990 May 31 Ends: 1993 Dec 31 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4200 Home Affairs (London taxi fares) Begins: 1979 Jun 1 Ends: 1993 Mar 26 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4201 Home Affairs (Firearms amnesty: review of firearms) Begins: 1987 Jul 1 Ends: 1993 Sep 17 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4202 Home Affairs (Public holidays) Begins: 1986 Mar 31 Ends: 1993 Apr 30 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24 File classification: Confidential Pages: 188
PREM19/4204 Home Affairs (Obscenity legislation (video nasties): includes meetings with Mary Whitehouse) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Aug 2 Ends: 1993 Sep 30 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4209 Home Affairs (Report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People: social security benefits and employment and training services for disabled people) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jul 1 Ends: 1993 Jan 29 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4212 Home Affairs (Interim payments for civil legal aid work: criminal legal aid remuneration) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Dec 1 Ends: 1993 Jul 7 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4213 Home Affairs (Prime Minister's meetings with the Home Secretary) Begins: 1985 Dec 6 Ends: 1993 Oct 21 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4214 Home Affairs (Disposal of nuclear waste) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Feb 1 Ends: 1993 Jun 29 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4215 Home Affairs (Open Government) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Jun 1 Ends: 1993 Jan 29 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4217 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: industrial action by the Prison Officers Association; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 6) Begins: 1990 Apr 2 Ends: 1993 Mar 30 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4218 Home Affairs (Legislation on privacy and right of reply: The Calcutt Report) (Part 1) Begins: 1989 Jan 10 Ends: 1993 Jan 22 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4221 Home Affairs (Family Policy Group: renewing the values of society) (Part 4) Begins: 1987 Feb 1 Ends: 1993 Oct 29 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4227 Hong Kong (Future of the Governor of Hong Kong) (Part 1) Begins: 1990 May 1 Ends: 1993 Feb 2 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4233 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations: internal situation) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 Jul 1 Ends: 1993 Jun 21 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28