Margaret Thatcher: Prime Minister Indomitable

By Juliet S. Thompson; Wayne C. Thompson | Go to book overview

Introduction and Acknowledgments

Referring to the forebears of today's Britons, Tacitus noted in Agricola: "Neque enim sexum in imperius discernunt" (They recognize no distinction between the sexes in choosing their leaders). Two millennia later, in 1969, an ambitious opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Margaret Thatcher, had still not convinced herself that this was true. She stated then that "no woman in my time will be prime minister." Six years later she became the first woman to win leadership over a British political party. Four years thereafter she was her country's first woman head of government and would become Britain's longest-serving prime minister in the twentieth century, the only one to win three consecutive general elections. Until she was forced to step down on November 22, 1990, after eleven and a half years in office, Margaret Thatcher had been the most innovative, successful, and unpopular prime minister since 1945. In the view of The Economist, she was "Britain's outstanding peacetime leader of the twentieth century."1.

This book seeks to present and evaluate the policies and ideas of this extraordinary politician. It is divided into two parts. The first is composed of chapters by scholars who have studied British politics and Margaret Thatcher's career. In the second part, she speaks for herself. This work is not organized around a single, unified view of Thatcher. The authors analyze various aspects of her prime ministry and offer differing assessments, perspectives, and conclusions about her policies and leadership, as would befit such a multifaceted and controversial political figure.

In the opening chapter, the editors examine the uniqueness of Mrs. Thatcher as a leader and survey the principal stages of her political career. They provide a context within which the chapters and speeches which follow can be better understood. Jorgen S. Rasmussen describes her family and educational background, her entry into politics, and the personal qualities which made her successful. James E. Alt analyzes Thatcher's ideology and the economic changes which she attempted to bring about. Alan J. Ward describes and evaluates her high-profile foreign and defense policy. She

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1.
Tacitus quote in Ernle Money, Margaret Thatcher--First Lady of the House ( London: Leslie Frewin, 1975), in front material. Thatcher's 1969 quote on promotional insert in The Economist, July 24-30, 1993. Final quote in "Margaret Thatcher's Ten Years," The Economist, April 29, 1989, 19.

-xiii-

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