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 name Title Begins Ends Date of releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3273 Economic Policy (Consumer Credit Act 1974: licensing; consumer lending; credit marketing) 1979 Jul 4 1991 Sep 19 2017 Jul 20 Secret 256
PREM19/3509 Post and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: Telecommunications Duopoly Review) (Part 13) 1990 Jul 6 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 214
PREM19/3100 NATO (NATO Ministerial meetings) 1979 May 31 1990 May 30 2017 Jul 20 Secret 212
PREM19/3348 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 1 1991 Dec 6 2017 Jul 20 14 Secret UK Eyes A 230
PREM19/2686 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Morocco, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Namibia, March-April 1989) (Part 2) 1989 Mar 22 1989 May 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3155 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; report on 'Developments in Biotechnology') (Part 10) 1990 Jan 2 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 337
PREM19/3385 Home Affairs (Women's National Commission: policy towards women) (Part 2) 1988 Feb 17 1991 Nov 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 326
PREM19/2822 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the United Nations and Washington, November 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Sep 14 1989 Dec 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3227 Cabinet (Arrangements for Cabinet business) (Part 20) 1990 Sep 5 1991 Jan 31 2017 Jul 20 Secret 231
PREM19/2945 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Houston, July 1990) (Part 30) 1989 Dec 21 1990 Aug 20 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 414
PREM19/3269 Economic Policy (Briefing for the Prime Minister by Sir Alan Walters) 1989 May 10 1991 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20 Secret 35
PREM19/3095 National Health (The Cyclotron Trust) (Part 1) 1989 Jan 4 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 322
PREM19/3543 Social Services (Perinatal and infant mortality) (Part 2) 1988 Mar 15 1990 Dec 7 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 64
PREM19/2682 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 6) 1988 Dec 2 1989 Nov 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3154 Science and Technology (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD): reports on biotechnology) 1980 Jan 28 1990 Nov 8 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 370