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 namesort descending Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/4238 Industrial Policy (General Motors/Vauxhall Motors: includes meeting with the President of General Motors to discuss the future of Vauxhall Motors on 30 January 1981: pay of Vauxhall Motors) Begins: 1980 Dec 29 Ends: 1993 Apr 16 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4239 Industrial Policy (Ford productivity and government assistance: pay disputes at Ford; Prime Minister's meetings with Ford Chairmen and Presidents) Begins: 1980 Oct 13 Ends: 1993 Jun 8 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4240 India (UK/Indian relations) (Part 7) Begins: 1989 Sep 4 Ends: 1993 Apr 13 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4241 India (Prime Minister's visit to India: Indian nuclear programme) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Aug 1 Ends: 1993 Feb 28 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4242 India (Foreign policy: internal situation; re-election of Mrs Gandhi; aid to India; Indo-Soviet relations; Indo-Pakistan relations) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jun 1 Ends: 1993 Apr 23 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4243 Indonesia (Visits by Dr Habibie, Indonesian Minister for Research and Technology) Begins: 1983 Jun 15 Ends: 1993 Jun 28 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4269 Jamaica (Anglo-Jamaican relations: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jul 16 Ends: 1993 Apr 7 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4276 Jordan (Visits to London by King Hussein) (Part 5) Begins: 1989 Mar 5 Ends: 1993 Jan 4 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4281 Legal Procedures (Bail Act 1976) (Part 1) Begins: 1987 Mar 20 Ends: 1993 Apr 27 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4282 Legal Procedures (The Pearson Report: recommendations on damages for personal injuries; criminal injuries compensation scheme) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Mar 1 Ends: 1993 Aug 3 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4284 Liechenstein (UK/Liechtenstein relations: internal situation) Begins: 1984 Oct 1 Ends: 1993 Dec 22 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4295 Manpower (Unemployment and vacancies figures) (Part 7) Begins: 1987 Apr 1 Ends: 1993 Feb 18 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4299 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle East countries) (Part 5) Begins: 1990 Nov 1 Ends: 1993 Feb 25 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4301 Ministers (Travel by Ministers and their families) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Oct 1 Ends: 1993 Jul 30 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4302 Ministers (Ministers' absences: general policy relating to Ministers' absences) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 Oct 18 Ends: 1993 Jun 23 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24