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
PREM19/1682 China (Sino-British relations) (Part 3) Begins: 1985 Jun 1 Ends: 1986 Jun 29 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/3 China (Premier Hua visit to UK, Oct 1979) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 18 Ends: 1979 Nov 29 Date of release: 2009-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 236
PREM19/3625 China (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Chinese Ambassador) Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1992 Mar 31 Date of release: 2017-12-29 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 161
PREM19/1424 Chile (UK/Chilean relations: policy on arms sales) Begins: 1979 Sep 17 Ends: 1985 Dec 9 Date of release: 2014-12-30 Any docs withheld? 9 File classification: Secret Pages: 328
PREM19/4588 Chile (UK/Chilean relations: internal situation; policy on arms sales) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Mar 13 Ends: 1994 May 25 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/2035 Chad (Internal situation) Begins: 1981 Nov 12 Ends: 1987 Oct 28 Date of release: 2016-07-21
PREM19/3233 Cayman Islands (Relations with UK: internal situation) Begins: 1988 Sep 14 Ends: 1990 Dec 17 Date of release: 2017-07-20 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 23
PREM19/3232 Cars (Use of the Government Car Service) (Part 2) Begins: 1989 Sep 5 Ends: 1991 Dec 17 Date of release: 2017-12-29 Any docs withheld? 4 File classification: Confidential Pages: 175
PREM19/4587 Cars (Use of official cars) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 10 Ends: 1994 Dec 23 Date of release: 2018-12-28 File classification: Confidential Pages: 195
PREM19/4027 Cars (Replacement of cars at No 10: protection of Prime Minister's cars) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Feb 4 Ends: 1993 Feb 10 Date of release: 2018-07-24
PREM19/3231 Canada ​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by Canadian High Commissioners; appointment of Canadian High Commissioners) Begins: 1979 Oct 19 Ends: 1991 Sep 17 Date of release: 2017-07-20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 36
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Apr 2 Ends: 1988 Mar 28 Date of release: 2016-12-30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 294
PREM19/4026 Canada (Visits to UK by Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Mulroney and his successors) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Apr 7 Ends: 1993 Jul 2 Date of release: 2018-07-24
PREM19/4025 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: Canadian Constitution; British North America Acts) (Part 7) Begins: 1990 Aug 4 Ends: 1993 Sep 8 Date of release: 2018-07-24
PREM19/3623 Canada (Prime Minister's visits to Canada, 25-28 Sep 1983 and 17-18 Dcr 1992) Begins: 1983 Aug 31 Ends: 1992 Dec 17 Date of release: 2017-12-29 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 390