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 name Titlesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/473 Ghana (Visit to UK by President Limann, May 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) Begins: 1980 Oct 21 Ends: 1981 Jun 2 Date of release: 2011-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 155
PREM19/1766 Gibraltar (Policy towards Gibraltar: discussions with Spanish under Lisbon and Brussels Agreements) (Part 5) Begins: 1984 Apr 6 Ends: 1986 Oct 24 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/769 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jul 19 Ends: 1982 Jan 20 Date of release: 2012-12-28 File classification: Confidential Pages: 162
PREM19/770 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 Feb 11 Ends: 1982 Oct 28 Date of release: 2012-12-28 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Secret Pages: 189
PREM19/771 Government buildings (Building of an international conference centre on Broad Sanctuary in Westminster; redevelopment of Richmond Yard/Bridge Street site) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Oct 1 Ends: 1982 Sep 30 Date of release: 2012-12-28 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Secret Pages: 215
PREM19/1768 Government Buildings (Edward Erdman Surveyors report on the redevelopment of the Bridge Street site) Begins: 1983 Feb 1 Ends: 1986 Feb 28 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/474 Government buildings (Expenditure on government accommodation) Begins: 1979 Jun 20 Ends: 1981 Apr 2 Date of release: 2011-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 18
PREM19/2699 Government Buildings (Opening of the Cabinet War Rooms to the public, April 1984) Begins: 1981 May 29 Ends: 1989 Mar 21 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/2700 Government Buildings (Purchase of government accommodation in the Whitehall area) Begins: 1983 Jul 23 Ends: 1989 Sep 26 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/2188 Government Buildings (Refurbishing of Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Jun 1 Ends: 1988 Aug 12 Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1767 Government Buildings (The building of an international conference centre on the Broad Sanctuary site and the redevelopment of the Bridge Street and Richmond Yard sites) (Part 2) Begins: 1983 Mar 16 Ends: 1986 Oct 31 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/773 Government machinery ('Improving management effectiveness in Government', memorandum by Management Consultants Association; review of financial control in Department of Industry; employment of consultants in government) Begins: 1981 Nov 17 Ends: 1982 Mar 29 Date of release: 2012-12-28 File classification: Restricted Pages: 78
PREM19/2191 Government Machinery (Access of the Comptroller and Auditor General to Cabinet papers and Treasury documents) Begins: 1987 Nov 5 Ends: 1988 Feb 12 Date of release: 2016-02-19
PREM19/481 Government machinery (Advisory Council for Applied Research & Development (ACARD): reports on IT, computer-aided design & technological change; future of ACARD) (Part 2) Begins: 1980 Aug 1 Ends: 1981 Dec 14 Date of release: 2011-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 226
PREM19/2701 Government Machinery (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 5) Begins: 1987 Jan 2 Ends: 1989 May 31 Date of release: 2016-12-30