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
PREM19/4927 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Mayors of London, 25 July 1983, 13 May 1992, 2 November 1993) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Jul 22 Ends: 1994 Nov 16 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4928 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Admiral Lee Baggett Jnr, SACLANT (Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic), 13 March 1986: includes correspondence regarding a telephone call between the PM and General John Galvin, US Army Supreme Commander Allied Powers Europe, 3 February 1992) Begins: 1986 Jan 30 Ends: 1992 Jan 16 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4948 Former Prime Ministers (Sir Winston Churchill's wartime diary) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Dec 1 Ends: 1994 Apr 18 Date of release: 2020 Dec 30
PREM19/5478 Venezuela (Internal situation: UK/Venezuela relations) (Part 1) Begins: 1983 Jan 6 Ends: 1995 Dec 7 Date of release: 2019 Dec 31 File classification: Secret Pages: 22
PREM19/6222 Former Prime Ministers (Lady Thatcher) (Part 2) Begins: 1993 May 12 Ends: 1997 Mar 17 Date of release: 2020 Dec 30


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