Archive

Large scale document archive

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 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.

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.

 

Link to full file File namesort ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1668 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 3) 1986 Jan 12 1986 Jan 24 2016 Feb 19 Confidential 318
PREM19/1667 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 2) 1985 Dec 28 1986 Jan 10 2016 Feb 19 Secret 413
PREM19/1416 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 1B) 1985 Dec 10 1985 Dec 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 213
PREM19/1415 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 1A) 1985 Apr 30 1985 Dec 10 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 205
PREM19/1414 Aerospace (UK-Hong Kong air services licensing appeal: demise of Laker Airways; Hong Kong-Australia Air Services Agreement) 1980 Jun 12 1985 Oct 9 2014 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/1417 Aerospace (Third London Airport) 1979 Nov 27 1985 Jan 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 230
PREM19/2900 Aerospace (The fourth and fifth terminals for Heathrow Airport: developments at Heathrow) 1979 Dec 3 1990 Jan 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1413 Aerospace (Space policy: formation of British National Space Centre (BNSC)) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 20 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/2012 Aerospace (Space policy) (Part 3) 1987 Jul 14 1988 Nov 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2011 Aerospace (Space policy) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 4 1987 May 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1410 Aerospace (Rolls-Royce V2500 engine project) 1984 Jan 31 1984 May 17 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 29
PREM19/2899 Aerospace (Review of Scottish lowland airports policy) 1984 Jul 6 1990 Mar 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2898 Aerospace (Radio equipment for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA): NATO air defence radar procurement) 1979 Nov 21 1990 Jul 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/948 Aerospace (Presentation by Rolls-Royce and British Aerospace to Prime Minister and other Ministers on aerospace) 1983 Sep 6 1983 Nov 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 58
PREM19/1164 Aerospace (Possible merger between British Aerospace and Thorn EMI or General Electric Company (GEC)) 1984 May 2 1984 Jul 11 2014 Jan 3 Secret 42

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