Thatcher, Margaret (Hilda) 1925-
THATCHER, Margaret (Hilda) 1925-
PERSONAL: Born October 13, 1925, in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England; daughter of Alfred (a grocer, politician, and lay minister) and Beatrice (a dressmaker) Roberts; married Denis Thatcher (a business executive), December, 1951; children: Mark, Carol (twins). Education: Somerville College, Oxford, B.Sc., 1947, M.A. Politics: Conservative. Hobbies and other interests: Music, reading.
ADDRESSES: Office—House of Lords, London SW1A OPW, England. Agent—Washington Speaker's Bureau, 1663 Prince St., Alexandria, VA 22314.
CAREER: Worked as a research chemist for two industrial firms near London, England, 1947-51; personal assistant to Joint Iron Council director; called to the Bar, London, England, 1954; practiced tax and patent law, 1954-61; elected parliamentary representative in the House of Commons for the district of Finchley, 1959-79 and 1991—; Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, London, joint parliamentary secretary, 1961-64; secretary of state for education and science, 1970-74; appointed privy councilor, 1970, and co-chair, 1970-74, of Women's National Committee; leader of Conservative Party, 1975; opposition leader, 1975-79; prime minister and first lord of the treasury, 1979-90; University of Buckingham, Buckingham, England, chancellor, 1992—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Honorary fellow, Somerville College, Oxford University, 1970; Freedom of Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, 1979, Barnet, 1980, Falkland Islands, 1983, and of City of London, 1989; Donovan Award, 1981; Royal Society Fellowship, 1983; Decorated Order of Merit by Her Majesty the Queen, 1990; United States Medal of Freedom, 1991; named Honorable Chancellor of the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, 1993; Most Honorable Order of the Garter, by Her Majesty the Queen, 1995.
What's Wrong with Politics?, Conservative Political Centre (London, England), 1968.
Let Our Children Grow Tall: Selected Speeches, 1975-1977, Centre for Policy Studies (London, England), 1977.
In Defence of Freedom: Speeches on Britain's Relations with the World, 1976-1986, introduction by Ronald Butt and foreword by Ronald Reagan, Prometheus Books (Buffalo, NY), 1987.
The Revival of Britain: Speeches on Home and European Affairs, 1975-1988, compiled by Alistair B. Cooke, Aurum Press (London, England), 1989.
The Path to Power, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
The Collected Speeches of Margaret Thatcher, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 1997.
As I Said to Denis—: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, Robson Books/Parkwest (New York, NY), 1998.
Messages from Croatia, Croatian Institute for Culture and Information (Zagreb, Croatia), 1998.
Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to The Right Angle: Three Studies in Conservatism: Margaret Thatcher, Sir Geoffrey Howe, Sir Keith Joseph, foreword by Douglas French, Bow Publications, 1978; contributor to periodicals.
SIDELIGHTS: Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher rose to become one of the twentieth century's most powerful women and, after Winston Churchill, perhaps her country's most influential leader. She chronicled her years as prime minister in her 1993 memoir The Downing Street Years, 1979-1990. The voluminous memoir recounts her eleven-and-a-half years at London's 10 Downing Street, the official prime minister's residence. During that tenure, the policies Thatcher was able to implement dramatically altered many social, economic, and political facets of British life and spawned the catchword "Thatcherism"—a term that, according to Toronto Globe & Mail writer Jeffrey Simpson, "seemed to mean a mixture of stubbornness, anti-communism, a detestation of state intervention and a decided preference for marketoriented approaches to economic and social problems."
Thatcher was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, the daughter of Alfred Roberts, a local grocer, Methodist minister, and politician. She credits her one-time mayor father for inspiring in her an interest in politics and a determination to succeed on her own terms. After graduating from Somerville College at Oxford University, where she first became politically active, Thatcher worked as a research chemist and later studied law. In the early 1950s, she married, gave birth to twins, earned another degree, passed the bar, and became a barrister. She practiced patent and tax law through the decade, and in 1959 succeeded in winning a seat in the House of Commons—the lower house of Great Britain's parliament—representing the London suburb of Finchley. Thatcher advanced rapidly through the ranks of the Conservative Party, holding a number of important posts in it and in parliament before winning the general election for prime minister in 1979.
A staunch Tory—as British conservatives are known—Thatcher stood even farther to the right than some of her party colleagues. Policies implemented by their political adversaries in the Labor Party had prevailed in Britain during the decades following World War II, and by the late 1970s Britain was suffering from a host of problems, including inflation and nationwide worker strikes. The Downing Street Years begins with Thatcher's first days in office and her determination to remedy the malaise: she began to undo some of the close links between the people and the British government, a relationship that she and other conservatives felt had resulted in a sort of welfare state that was becoming detrimental to all parties involved. Within a short time, Thatcher introduced plans to cut taxes for the rich, reduce subsidies that the government provided to failing industries, and sell off several stateowned enterprises through offerings of stock to the public.
One of the recurring themes Thatcher stresses in her political memoirs is the opposition she received from many sides for embarking down such a radical course, recalling that "there was a revolution to be made, but too few revolutionaries." Yet she became known both in Britain and abroad for the tenacity with which she fought for her ideas, and her determination ultimately helped much of her reform plan succeed. In addition to privatizing such giants as British Telecom and Rolls-Royce, the prime minister also offered governmentsubsidized housing to tenants, enabling many to become first-time homeowners. Another major achievement of her tenure was the humbling of Britain's powerful trade unions through stricter antistrike legislation. The Downing Street Years also details Thatcher's successes in foreign policy, including her firm stance when Argentina invaded the small, British-held Falkland Islands located in the south Atlantic. Although the British victory cost 255 lives, the short war helped boost national self-esteem and pride in the country's venerable naval forces; it also boosted Thatcher's popularity rating. In her memoir Thatcher also recalls meetings with and her personal opinions regarding other world leaders, such as Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Mikhail Gorbachev, whom she termed "a man with whom I could do business."
Yet it was Thatcher's relationship with the other leading players of her own political party that ultimately led to her ouster in 1990. She had won three consecutive elections, the first British prime minister to do so in the twentieth century. As she recounts in The Downing Street Years, opposition from more moderate Tories was often her biggest obstacle to success; eventually, disagreements over Britain's role in the European Union helped shift party support over to her successor, John Major. In The Downing Street Years, Thatcher assails those who failed to back her at that juncture, prompting Globe & Mail reviewer Simpson to deem the book "quite gripping if knives between the ribs are to your taste." Simpson also remarked that her political memoir provides "ample evidence why Margaret Thatcher dominated British politics and why from the sidelines she continues to exert influence over public opinion."
Other reviewers expressed similar sentiments regarding Thatcher's memoirs. Times Literary Supplement writer Peter Riddell faulted the book's "disappointingly little reflection" and remarked that "The Downing Street Years helps answer the central questions of why she succeeded, what difference she made and why she fell. The flaws in the book, the irritating 'we,' the tone of self-satisfaction and self-congratulation and the criticism of former close allies, are clues." Yet Riddell praised some sections, especially the Falklands War chapters, and asserted that in the end, Thatcher's volume "will remain an invaluable guide to understanding her and her eleven and a half years as prime minister." Former United States Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, reviewing The Downing Street Years for the New York Times Book Review, lauded Thatcher's characterizations of her political contemporaries in Britain, remarking "there is no doubt that she has an extraordinary gift for conveying essential attributes." Kissinger observed that "Thatcher's memoirs are essential for an understanding of her time because they capture all the qualities of her character and, inevitably, some of her defects as well. They are lucid, opinionated, self-assured, wide-ranging and indispensable."
Thatcher's second volume of memoirs, The Path To Power, met with criticism similar to that of The Downing Years. In it, Thatcher chronicles her life on the rise to power, from her childhood in Grantham to her appointment as Prime Minister. Some reviewers found fault with Thatcher for disclosing very little new or personal information; for example, Parliamentary Affairs' Peter Madgwick wrote that "Thatcher's book, avowedly the work of a team of writers and researchers, is disappointing as a personal memoir. There are appealing passages about early life in Grantham and about Oxford in the 1940s, but she does not make the most of the extraordinary experience of the scholarship girl from a rather ordinary background encountering Oxford in the gloom of October 1943." Heather Mallick noted in Canoe that Thatcher also says little of her wealthy husband, Denis, and "does not discuss the prosperity he brought to the marriage"—she is wont to present herself as a self-made, do-it-yourself success story. Thatcher also takes the last four chapters of the book to criticize her successor, Prime Minister John Major. Despite these flaws, Booklist's Brad Hooper appreciated that Thatcher's narrative as "opinionated, self-assured, and, as the reader has to admit, well-reasoned."
In 2002, Thatcher published Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World, dedicated to Ronald Reagan. In it, Thatcher offers her opinions on and remedies for the problems facing contemporary politics. Ian Gilmour wrote in the London Review of Books that Thatcher's intended audience seemed to be "a very unsophisticated and very right-wing audience in the United States," so ardent is her enthusiasm for America and her "demonization and hatred of 'mainland Europe.'" Similarly, Europe's Robert J. Guttman commented that "her outspoken, candid, and contemptuous remarks about the EU and Europe take away from an otherwise well-written book, which takes a tour d'horizon of the world and world leaders." Gilmour did note, however, that Thatcher's book "is penetrating and fair on Russia and Asia, and excellent on the Balkans."
"It is easier to admire historical analysis or social commentary when one agrees with it, but one can be impressed with Thatcher's analysis without agreeing with her conclusion," wrote George Jonas in the National Review. Jonas, who admitted to agreeing with Thatcher's analysis, stated that she "has the finger on the pulse of our sickly times." And, as Spectator's Peregrine Worsthorne noted, she has the ability to write about them in a manner that is "lucid, authoritative, [and] formidably well-argued and researched." Thatcher remains a presence on the British political scene, having accepted a peerage as Baroness of Kesteven, and serves in the House of Lords.
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Booklist, July, 1995, Brad Hooper, review of The Path to Power, pp. 1834-1835.
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Spectator, June 17, 1995, review of The Path to Power, p. 39; November 18, 1995, review of The Path to Power, p. 45; December 6, 1997, review of The Collected Speeches of Margaret Thatcher, p. 44; April 6, 2002, Peregrine Worsthorne, review of Statecraft, pp. 33-34.
Time, July 10, 1995, Martha Duffy, review of The Path to Power, p. 64.
Times Educational Supplement, April 14, 1995, review of The Downing Street Years, 1979-1990, p. 27; June 30, 1995, review of The Path to Power, p. 15.
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Canoe,http://www.canoe.ca/ (August 6, 1995), Heather Mallick, "Daddy's Girl" (review of The Path to Power).
Foreign Affairs,http://www.foreignaffairs.org/ (September-October, 2002), G. John Ikenberry, review of Statecraft.
Margaret Thatcher Web site,http://www.margaretthatcher.com/ (April 30, 2003).
Samuel Brittan,http://www.samuelbrittan.co.uk/ (April 6, 2002), Samuel Brittan, "Power and Other Basic Instincts" (review of Statecraft).
SpinTech,http://www.spintechmag.com/ (February 12, 1999), Patrick Ruffini, "Thatcher's Triumph" (review of The Collected Speeches of Margaret Thatcher).
Union University,http://www.uu.edu/ (April 30, 2003), Margaret Thatcher biography.*