Newly released files from 1981
The National Archives has today made available public records from 1981, providing an insight into the workings of Margaret Thatcher's government in her second full year in power. The files are from the Prime Minister's Office (PREM 19 series) and Cabinet minutes and memoranda, the highlights of which are now online.
It was a year of economic turmoil in which unemployment reached 2.5 million and austerity measures were introduced. Documents detail discussion among government ministers on proposed cuts to the defence budget and divisions in the Cabinet over economic policy, particularly following Chancellor Geoffrey Howe's March Budget.
Another primary concern in 1981 was civil disorder following riots and disturbances in Brixton, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, and London districts. Records detail the Prime Minister's meetings with community leaders and discussions about police control measures.
In Northern Ireland too there was unrest, with prisoners protesting over the UK government's stance of refusing the imprisoned Irish dissidents political status. Our files cover the IRA hunger strikers at the Maze prison, including Bobby Sands who died shortly after his election as a member of parliament.
The release of files provides unique insight into the Prime Minister's relationships with political counterparts in other countries, including French Presidents Giscard d'Estang and Mitterand and the newly sworn in US President Ronald Reagan.
Listen to our podcast on the new files from 1981, by Mark Dunton, Simon Demissie and Tommy Norton.
A selection of original records from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Cabinet office files from 1981 are also available to view at The National Archives in Kew.