Margaret Thatcher was the longest-reigning British prime minister in almost two centuries, and the first female prime minister – not only in Britain, but also in the whole of Europe. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady” for her hard-line economic and political policies, Thatcher managed to bring British economics back from the doldrums, driving the first period of economic growth in Britain in the post-World War II years. In what follows, in Part II this paper briefly reviews the life and times of Baroness Thatcher. Part III then primes the background by exploring the state of Britain’s economy in the 1960s and 1970s. Part IV presents an overview of Thatcherism, and Part V describes the impact of Thatcherism on the British economy. Part VI summarizes, reviewing some of the criticism Thatcher has faced – both while in power as well as in the wake of her resignation. Part VII presents a list of references.
Margaret Thatcher was born in 1925 as Margaret Hilda Roberts in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England to a grocer and a dressmaker. She majored in chemistry at Oxford, and, following her marriage in 1951 to businessman Dennis Thatcher completed her law studies and sat for the bar examinations. In 1950, Mrs. Thatcher ran for office for the first time, but lost. It wasn’t until 1959, at age 34, that she was first elected to the British Parliament as a Conservative from one of the most prestigious seats in Britain – Finchley in north London.
In 1961, Thatcher was given a junior ministerial post as joint parliamentary secretary of Pensions and National Insurance, a position she held until 1964. In 1970 she was given the position of Secretary of State for Education and in Science Edward Heath's cabinet. By this time Mrs. Thatcher was 44 years old, and her nomination was widely considered to be the summit of her career, having been chosen to serve as the “statutory woman” in Heath’s cabinet.
However, the ambitious Mrs. Thatcher was not content in this role. When Heath’s opponent for Tory leadership abruptly abandoned the contest, a confident Thatcher strode into Heath’s office and announced that she would be running against him. Heath did not look up as he commented, “You’ll lose. Good day to you”. Thatcher won the nomination in 1975 and continued to head to party until her resignation in 1990.