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
PREM19/937 Transport (Fixed Channel Link (Channel Tunnel); economic considerations; discussions with French) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jul 24 Ends: 1982 Feb 8 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Confidential Pages: 207
PREM19/1990 Transport (London Regional Transport) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Nov 3 Ends: 1986 Nov 27 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2884 Transport (London Regional Transport: Central London Rail Study) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Dec 11 Ends: 1989 Mar 20 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1651 Transport (London Underground dispute, June 1979: reactivation of Civil Contingencies Unit; arbitration; London Transport pay; threatened London Underground and bus strikes) Begins: 1979 May 31 Ends: 1985 May 20 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 122
PREM19/1993 Transport (Policy on roads: White Papers; roads programme) (Part 2) Begins: 1981 Dec 16 Ends: 1986 Mar 10 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/935 Transport (Private finance for trunk road construction) Begins: 1982 Feb 22 Ends: 1982 May 25 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Confidential Pages: 37
PREM19/931 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute) (Part 2) Begins: 1981 Aug 4 Ends: 1982 Feb 9 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Secret Pages: 264
PREM19/932 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute; investigation into 'flexible rostering' by Railway Staff National Tribunal under Lord McCarthy; railway finances review by Sir David Serpell) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Feb 10 Ends: 1982 May 7 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Secret Pages: 340
PREM19/1989 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay; industrial action by NUR and ASLEF; possible line closures; British Rail finances) (Part 8) Begins: 1984 Jan 20 Ends: 1986 Jul 31 Date of release: 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/934 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' industrial action; contingency planning; McCarthy report on railway productivity and pay; rail fare increases) (Part 5) Begins: 1982 Jun 28 Ends: 1982 Sep 30 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Secret Pages: 265
PREM19/933 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' threatened industrial action; contingency planning) (Part 4) Begins: 1982 May 10 Ends: 1982 Jun 25 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Secret Pages: 283
PREM19/599 Transport (Railway policy: rail fares; reference of London commuter services to Monopolies and Mergers Commission; British Rail finances; services to Gatwick airport; pay negotiations; industrial action by National Union of Railwaymen) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Aug 24 Ends: 1981 Aug 3 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 177
PREM19/380 Tunisia (Call on Prime Minister by Habib Bourguiba, son of Tunisian President, March 1980) Begins: 1980 Feb 29 Ends: 1980 Mar 21 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 18
PREM19/1994 Uganda (Internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Apr 17 Ends: 1986 Jan 31 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 1
PREM19/939 United Nations (Election of United Nations Secretary-General) Begins: 1981 May 5 Ends: 1982 Feb 8 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Confidential Pages: 106