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
PREM19/4306 Ministers (Correspondence with Members of Parliament) Begins: 1989 Dec 13 Ends: 1991 Nov 26 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4307 Ministers (Policy on passenger searching at airports as it affects Ministers) Begins: 1979 Aug 2 Ends: 1991 Feb 25 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4314 National Health (Industrial action in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS workers' pay (except nurses)) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 Feb 7 Ends: 1993 Dec 10 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4327 Nationalised Industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 4) Begins: 1986 Oct 13 Ends: 1993 Dec 23 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4328 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 16) Begins: 1989 Dec 18 Ends: 1993 Jan 20 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4329 NATO (NATO policy) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Apr 10 Ends: 1993 Oct 12 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4330 NATO (Prime Minister's meetings with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe) (SACEUR) Begins: 1979 May 23 Ends: 1993 Oct 27 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4332 NATO (NATO Ministerial meetings) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jun 1 Ends: 1993 Jun 10 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4333 New Zealand (Visits to the UK by New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange and his successor Jim Bolger) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Feb 6 Ends: 1993 Mar 11 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4334 New Zealand (Internal situation: UK/New Zealand relations; relations with the European Community) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Jul 1 Ends: 1993 Sep 27 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4335 Pakistan (Internal situation: military aid to Pakistan; death of President Zia) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Oct 17 Ends: 1993 Jul 15 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4337 Parliament (The Unemployment Debate: recall of Parliament) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Sep 10 Ends: 1993 Jul 29 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4339 Parliament (Remuneration of Junior Ministers in the House of Lords) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Jul 7 Ends: 1993 May 21 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4343 Parliament (Request by the Opposition for increase in financial allowances for Opposition Parties) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Jan 25 Ends: 1993 Oct 28 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4347 Poland (Visits to the UK by General Jaruzelski, Prime Ministers Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Hanna Suchocka, and President Walesa) (Part 1) Begins: 1989 Mar 15 Ends: 1993 Mar 4 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28