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
PREM19/592 Security (Panorama programme on the KGB (Soviet Committee for State Security)) Begins: 1981 Apr 14 Ends: 1981 Oct 20 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 8
PREM19/363 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jun 7 Ends: 1980 Mar 19 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Unknown
PREM19/364 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 2) Begins: 1980 Mar 21 Ends: 1980 Apr 11 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Unknown
PREM19/590 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 3) Begins: 1980 Apr 18 Ends: 1981 Oct 9 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1625 Security (Policy on interception: legislation) (Part 4) Begins: 1975 Oct 31 Ends: 1985 Jan 31 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1629 Security (Possible penetration of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Confidential communications) Begins: 1982 Mar 4 Ends: 1985 Dec 6 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1635 Security (Prime Minister's visit to Century House (SIS headquarters), September 1984) Begins: 1984 Sep 5 Ends: 1984 Oct 8 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 10
PREM19/2517 Security (Procedure for dealing with suspicious letters and parcels received at 10 Downing Street: letter bombs) (Part 1) Begins: 1968 Sep 25 Ends: 1986 Jan 20 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/587 Security (Proposed BBC Panorama programme on British intelligence services) Begins: 1980 Jun 18 Ends: 1981 Feb 3 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 58
PREM19/594 Security (Prosecution of John Wagstaff under Official Secrets Act; investigation by Security Commission) Begins: 1980 May 13 Ends: 1981 May 8 Date of release: 2012 Feb 22 File classification: Secret Pages: 123
PREM19/911 Security (Provisional IRA: acquisition of weapons) Begins: 1982 Aug 26 Ends: 1982 Sep 7 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/1621 Security (Publication of 'British Intelligence and Covert Action' by Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald: security issues; Bloch's UK refugee residency status; protection of intelligence identities) Begins: 1983 Mar 9 Ends: 1985 Oct 28 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/910 Security (Publication of book by Gordon Welchman (former head of Hut 6) called 'The Hut Six Story' on wartime German Enigma cryptanalysis: reactions of US and UK governments) Begins: 1982 Apr 30 Ends: 1982 Jul 27 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Secret Pages: 8
PREM19/1129 Security (Publication of book containing accounts of National Security Agency) Begins: 1982 Mar 14 Ends: 1983 May 5 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/2499 Security (RAF fixed telecommunications system) Begins: 1988 Mar 29 Ends: 1988 Jul 21 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4