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 namesort ascending Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/4707 Haiti (UK/Haiti relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1986 Feb 7 1994 Aug 31 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4706 Grenada (UK/Grenada relations: internal situation; includes meetings with the government of Grenada) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 3 1994 Oct 17 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4682 Gambia (UK/Gambia relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1981 Jul 30 1994 Aug 1 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4676 Foreign Poicy (United Nations Law of the Sea Convention) (UNLOSC) (Part 3) 1985 Jan 21 1994 Jul 12 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4669 Foreign Policy (The British Council) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 5 1994 Aug 22 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4662 European Policy (The Economic and Social Committee of the EEC) (Part 2) 1990 Jan 11 1994 Jul 18 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4634 Environmental Affairs (Contacts with Sir Crispin Tickell, environmental adviser) (Part 1) 1990 Jun 27 1994 Nov 9 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4628 Energy (Gas and electricity) (Part 1) 1984 Aug 6 1994 Jun 5 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4625 El Salvador (Internal situation: UK/El Salvador relations) (Part 2) 1990 Feb 15 1994 Apr 29 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4624 Downing Street (Use of RACAL speech privacy equipment during PM trips abroad: secure communications between No.10 and PM on regional tours; direct fax links between Whitehall and No 10; use of secure telegram systems with PM's aircraft) 1979 Jun 21 1994 Mar 15 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4621 Downing Street (Information technology) (Part 4) 1986 Jul 18 1994 Nov 8 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4619 Dominica (UK/Dominica relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 14 1994 Feb 18 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4617 Disasters (Whitehall responses to national disasters: inquiries into major incidents) (Part 1) 1985 Jun 24 1994 Dec 22 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4613 Defence (US bases in the UK) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 18 1994 Dec 20 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4600 Cyprus (United Nations forces in Cyprus) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1994 Jun 8 2019 Feb 6