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
PREM19/3624 Canada (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Premiers of Canadian Provinces) Begins: 1979 Aug 6 Ends: 1992 Feb 7 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Secret Pages: 90
PREM19/2033 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Apr 1 Ends: 1988 Mar 25 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 Any docs withheld? 1
PREM19/4584 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Apr 11 Ends: 1994 Nov 18 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4585 Cambodia (UK/Cambodian relations: internal situation) (Part 2) Begins: 1988 Dec 19 Ends: 1994 Oct 31 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Oct 16 Ends: 1988 Nov 10 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1680 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 2) Begins: 1981 Nov 18 Ends: 1986 Jan 31 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4023 Cabinet (Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Feb 14 Ends: 1990 Dec 20 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3229 Cabinet (Forward look for Cabinet and Cabinet committee business) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Jan 17 Ends: 1991 Jan 23 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Secret Pages: 269
PREM19/3230 Cabinet (Correspondence regarding photographs of the Cabinet and the Whips) Begins: 1979 May 10 Ends: 1991 Mar 18 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Restricted Pages: 92
PREM19/4583 Cabinet (Cabinet meetings) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 May 6 Ends: 1994 Jul 20 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1679 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 2) Begins: 1982 Oct 6 Ends: 1986 Jan 24 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4021 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 Oct 19 Ends: 1993 Nov 23 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2919 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Feb 19 Ends: 1990 Jul 20 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 320
PREM19/1173 Cabinet (Cabinet collective responsibility) Begins: 1979 May 7 Ends: 1984 Nov 12 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Restricted Pages: 20
PREM19/3226 Cabinet (Attendance at Cabinet meetings: invitees and absences) (Part 5) Begins: 1987 Jun 18 Ends: 1991 Jul 19 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 259