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 ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/605 Zimbabwe (Request from Bishop Muzorewa for financial help with his security and education costs) Begins: 1981 Nov 3 Ends: 1981 Dec 18 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Cabinet two - Top Secret Pages: 13
PREM19/2576 Zimbabwe (Possible purchase of UK military aircraft) Begins: 1987 Feb 18 Ends: 1987 Jul 29 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/946 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with UK) Begins: 1981 Nov 12 Ends: 1982 Nov 30 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Secret Pages: 217
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) Begins: 1980 Apr 17 Ends: 1981 Nov 2 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 258
PREM19/132 Zambia (Policy) Begins: 1979 Jul 13 Ends: 1979 Jul 23 Date of release: Date of release: Closed
PREM19/2575 Zambia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 8 Ends: 1987 Aug 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/131 Zaire (Call on MT by Foreign Minister of) Begins: 1979 Nov 11 Ends: 1979 Nov 13 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 23
PREM19/2572 Yemen (Internal situation in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY): evacuation of British subjects and others) Begins: 1980 Apr 22 Ends: 1988 Oct 18 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/384 Yemen Arab Republic (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani, November 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) Begins: 1979 Aug 13 Ends: 1980 Jan 4 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 69
PREM19/604 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees; resettlement in the UK) (Part 3) Begins: 1979 Jul 17 Ends: 1981 Feb 28 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 244
PREM19/130 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 2) Begins: 1979 Jun 15 Ends: 1979 Jul 19 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 304
PREM19/129 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 24 Ends: 1979 Jun 14 Date of release: 2009 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 309
PREM19/603 Venezuela (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Zambrano Valesco, June 1981) Begins: 1981 May 8 Ends: 1981 Jun 26 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 26
PREM19/609 Vatican (Visit to UK by the Pope, May-June 1982) (Part 2) Begins: 1981 Nov 10 Ends: 1982 Jun 9 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 19 File classification: Secret Pages: 153
PREM19/945 Vatican (Vatican delegation to Heads of State about nuclear weapons; meeting with Prime Minister) Begins: 1981 Dec 14 Ends: 1982 Jan 29 Date of release: 2013 Jul 25 File classification: Confidential Pages: 59