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 Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3550 Soviet Union (Human rights and the position of dissidents in the Soviet Union: policy towards the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE))​​​​​​​ (Part 1) Begins: 1990 Jun 1 Ends: 1991 Mar 4 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 31
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
PREM19/3606 Agriculture (Agricultural and food research)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jun 4 Ends: 1992 Jan 20 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 46
PREM19/3473 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: Select Committees) (Part 11) Begins: 1990 Jun 5 Ends: 1991 Jul 15 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 287
PREM19/3243 Commonwealth (High level review of the role of the Commonwealth: dates for Heads of Government meeting) Begins: 1990 Jun 5 Ends: 1991 Aug 20 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Confidential Pages: 386
PREM19/3237 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Harare, Zimbabwe, October 1991) (Part 17) Begins: 1990 Jun 7 Ends: 1991 Oct 9 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 9 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 255
PREM19/4570 Austria (UK/Austrian relations: internal situation) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jun 7 Ends: 1994 Dec 22 Date of release: 2019 Feb 6
PREM19/3170 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits, including child support) (Part 6) Begins: 1990 Jun 8 Ends: 1990 Oct 30 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Secret Pages: 253
PREM19/3787 Home Affairs (Animal welfare matters) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jun 13 Ends: 1992 Feb 27 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 82
PREM19/2981 European Policy (European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990: briefing papers) Begins: 1990 Jun 19 Ends: 1990 Jun 21 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3398 Iraq (Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry)) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jun 21 Ends: 1991 Jun 30 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4634 Environmental Affairs (Contacts with Sir Crispin Tickell, environmental adviser) (Part 1) Begins: 1990 Jun 27 Ends: 1994 Nov 9 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3611 Arts and Amenities (Charitable trust for works of art in the Palace of Westminster) Begins: 1990 Jun 28 Ends: 1991 Mar 27 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 12
PREM19/3781 Government Machinery (The tourism industry: Government support for tourism; 'Tourism in the UK: Realising the Potential') (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jun 30 Ends: 1992 Mar 20 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Confidential Pages: 267
PREM19/4209 Home Affairs (Report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People: social security benefits and employment and training services for disabled people) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Jul 1 Ends: 1993 Jan 29 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24