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
PREM19/2026 Broadcasting (Independent review of the radio frequency spectrum between 30 and 960 MHz: Merriman Report) Begins: 1982 Apr 26 Ends: 1988 Jul 29 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19 File classification: Restricted Pages: 267
PREM19/1172 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; development of cable systems and services; broadcasting policy) (Part 4) Begins: 1983 May 25 Ends: 1984 Apr 27 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Confidential Pages: 304
PREM19/960 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; development of cable systems and services; broadcasting policy) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Nov 25 Ends: 1983 May 5 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 297
PREM19/2023 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and their effect on broadcasting policy) (Part 6) Begins: 1986 Mar 6 Ends: 1988 Jun 20 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19 File classification: Confidential Pages: 290
PREM19/2916 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite: satellite television; Sky Television) (Part 7) Begins: 1988 Jul 1 Ends: 1990 Nov 12 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 127
PREM19/1678 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite: cable systems and their effect on broadcasting policy) (Part 5) Begins: 1984 May 1 Ends: 1986 Feb 26 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 268
PREM19/3212 Broadcasting (Conservative Central Office media monitoring: BBC coverage of the American bombing raid on Libya, 15 April 1986) (Part 3 annex) Begins: 1986 Sep 20 Ends: 1986 Oct 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 72
PREM19/3618 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: television licence fees; future of the BBC) (Part 12) Begins: 1990 Jul 2 Ends: 1992 Aug 28 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Confidential Pages: 463
PREM19/2595 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 9) Begins: 1989 Jul 3 Ends: 1989 Oct 31 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Secret Pages: 285
PREM19/2918 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 11) Begins: 1990 Mar 1 Ends: 1990 Jun 29 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Confidential Pages: 309
PREM19/2594 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 8) Begins: 1989 May 2 Ends: 1989 Jun 30 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 259
PREM19/2593 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy) (Part 7) Begins: 1988 Oct 3 Ends: 1989 Apr 27 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 403
PREM19/4014 Brazil (UK relations with Brazil: internal situation) (Part 1) Begins: 1982 Sep 30 Ends: 1993 Nov 26 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2022 Bermuda (UK/Bermuda relations; meetings with John Swan, Premier of Bermuda) (Part 1) Begins: 1982 May 21 Ends: 1987 Jun 26 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/4576 Bermuda (UK/Bermuda relations: internal situation) (Part 2) Begins: 1987 Jul 1 Ends: 1994 Oct 6 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28