Margaret Thatcher

The Baroness Thatcher

portrait at half length of an old woman with coiffed, light golden brown hair, wearing jewellery, dressed in a dark suit, hands crossed, against a cloudy backdrop
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
4 May 1979 – 28 November 1990
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputySir Geoffrey Howe (1989–90)
Preceded byJames Callaghan
Succeeded byJohn Major
Leader of the Opposition
In office
11 February 1975 – 4 May 1979
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime Minister
Preceded byEdward Heath
Succeeded byJames Callaghan
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
11 February 1975 – 28 November 1990
DeputyThe Viscount Whitelaw
Preceded byEdward Heath
Succeeded byJohn Major
Ministerial offices
Secretary of State
for Education and Science
In office
20 June 1970 – 4 March 1974
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Preceded byEdward Short
Succeeded byReg Prentice
Parliamentary Secretary
to the Minister for Pensions
In office
9 October 1961 – 16 October 1964
Prime Minister
Preceded byPatricia Hornsby-Smith
Succeeded byNorman Pentland
Shadow Secretary of State
for the Environment
In office
5 March 1974 – 11 February 1975
LeaderEdward Heath
ShadowingAnthony Crosland
Preceded byAnthony Crosland
Succeeded byTimothy Raison
Shadow Secretary of State
for Education and Science
In office
10 January 1967 – 20 June 1970
LeaderEdward Heath
Preceded byRichard Crossman
Succeeded byEdward Short
Parliamentary offices
Member of Parliament
for Finchley
In office
8 October 1959 – 9 April 1992
Preceded bySir John Crowder
Succeeded byHartley Booth
Member of the House of Lords
Life peerage
30 June 1992 – 8 April 2013
Personal details
Margaret Hilda Roberts

(1925-10-13)13 October 1925
Grantham, Lincolnshire, England
Died8 April 2013(2013-04-08) (aged 87)
Westminster, London, England
Resting placeRoyal Hospital Chelsea
51°29′15″N 0°09′30″W / 51°29′15″N 0°09′30″W / 51.4874; -0.1582
Political partyConservative
Denis Thatcher
(m. 1951; died 2003)
ParentsAlfred Roberts (father)
EducationKesteven and Grantham Girls' School
Alma mater

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, DStJ, PC, FRS, HonFRSC (née Roberts; 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013) was a British stateswoman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to hold that office. A Soviet journalist dubbed her "The 'Iron Lady'", a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented policies known as Thatcherism.

She studied chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, and worked briefly as a research chemist, before becoming a barrister. Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament for Finchley in 1959. Edward Heath appointed her Secretary of State for Education and Science in his Conservative government. In 1975, Thatcher defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become Leader of the Opposition, the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom. She became Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election.

Thatcher introduced a series of economic policies intended to reverse high unemployment and Britain's struggles in the wake of the Winter of Discontent and an ongoing recession.[nb 1] Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labour markets, the privatisation of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions. Thatcher's popularity in her first years in office waned amid recession and rising unemployment, until victory in the 1982 Falklands War and the recovering economy brought a resurgence of support, resulting in her decisive re-election in 1983. She survived an assassination attempt in the Brighton hotel bombing in 1984.

Thatcher was re-elected for a third term in 1987, but her subsequent support for the Community Charge ("poll tax") was widely unpopular, and her views on the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister and party leader in November 1990, after Michael Heseltine launched a challenge to her leadership. After retiring from the Commons in 1992, she was given a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher (of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire) which entitled her to sit in the House of Lords. In 2013, she died of a stroke in London at the age of 87.

Always a controversial figure, she is nonetheless viewed favourably in historical rankings of British prime ministers, and her tenure constituted a realignment towards neoliberal policies in the United Kingdom; despite the passage of time, debate over the complicated legacy of Thatcherism persists.

Early life and education

Grade II No. 1062417
The corner of a terraced suburban street. The lower storey is a corner shop, advertising as a chiropractic clinic. The building is two storeys high, with some parts three storeys high.
2009 photograph of her father's grocery
photograph of plaque reading "Birth place of the Rt.Hon. Margaret Thatcher, M.P. First woman prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"
Commemorative plaque[3]
Margaret and her elder sister were raised in the bottom of two flats on North Parade.[2]

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on 13 October 1925, in Grantham, Lincolnshire.[4] Her parents were Alfred Roberts (1892–1970), from Northamptonshire, and Beatrice Ethel (née Stephenson, 1888–1960), from Lincolnshire.[4][5] She spent her childhood in Grantham, where her father owned two grocery shops. In 1938, prior to the Second World War, the Roberts family briefly gave sanctuary to a teenage Jewish girl who had escaped Nazi Germany.[6] Margaret, with her pen-friending elder sister Muriel, saved pocket money to help pay for the teenager's journey.[6]

Alfred Roberts was an alderman and a Methodist local preacher,[7] and brought up his daughter as a strict Wesleyan Methodist,[8] attending the Finkin Street Methodist Church.[9] He came from a Liberal family but stood (as was then customary in local government) as an Independent. He served as Mayor of Grantham in 1945–46 and lost his position as alderman in 1952 after the Labour Party won its first majority on Grantham Council in 1950.[7]

Aged 12–13 in 1938

Margaret Roberts attended Huntingtower Road Primary School and won a scholarship to Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School, a grammar school.[4][10] Her school reports showed hard work and continual improvement; her extracurricular activities included the piano, field hockey, poetry recitals, swimming and walking.[11] She was head girl in 1942–43.[12] In her upper sixth year she applied for a scholarship to study chemistry at the University of Oxford's Somerville College, a women's college at the time, but she was initially rejected and was offered a place only after another candidate withdrew.[13]

Oxford: 1943–1947

Roberts studied chemistry at Somerville College (pictured) in 1943–47

Roberts arrived at Oxford in 1943 and graduated in 1947[4] with Second-Class Honours, in the four-year Chemistry Bachelor of Science degree, specialising in X-ray crystallography under the supervision of Dorothy Hodgkin.[14] Her dissertation was on the structure of the antibiotic gramicidin.[15] Thatcher did not devote herself entirely to studying chemistry as she only intended to be a chemist for a short period of time.[16] Even while working on the subject, she was already thinking towards law and politics.[17] She was reportedly prouder of becoming the first Prime Minister with a science degree than becoming the first woman,[18] and as Prime Minister attempted to preserve Somerville as a women's college.[19]

During her time at Oxford, she was noted for her isolated and serious attitude.[20] Her first boyfriend, Tony Bray (1926–2014), recalled that she was "very thoughtful and a very good conversationalist. That's probably what interested me. She was good at general subjects".[20][21] Her enthusiasm for politics as a girl made him think of her as "unusual".[20] Bray later met Roberts' parents and described them as "slightly austere" and "very proper".[20][21]

At the end of the term at Oxford, Bray gradually became more distant and hoped for their relationship to "fizzle out". Bray later recalled that he thought Roberts had taken the relationship more seriously than he had done.[20] When asked about Bray in later life, Thatcher prevaricated but acknowledged the circumstances between herself and Bray.[20][21]

Roberts became President of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946.[22] She was influenced at university by political works such as Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom (1944),[23] which condemned economic intervention by government as a precursor to an authoritarian state.[24]

Postgraduate career: 1947–1951

After graduating, Roberts moved to Colchester in Essex to work as a research chemist for BX Plastics near Manningtree.[26] In 1948 she applied for a job at Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), but was rejected after the personnel department assessed her as "headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated".[25] Agar (2011) argues that her understanding of modern scientific research would later impact her views as Prime Minister.

Roberts joined the local Conservative Association and attended the party conference at Llandudno, Wales, in 1948, as a representative of the University Graduate Conservative Association.[27] Meanwhile, she became a high-ranking affiliate of the Vermin Club,[28][29] a group of grassroots Conservatives formed in response to a derogatory comment made by Aneurin Bevan.[29] One of her Oxford friends was also a friend of the Chair of the Dartford Conservative Association in Kent, who were looking for candidates.[27] Officials of the association were so impressed by her that they asked her to apply, even though she was not on the party's approved list; she was selected in January 1950 (aged 24) and added to the approved list post ante.[30]

At a dinner following her formal adoption as Conservative candidate for Dartford in February 1949 she met divorcé Denis Thatcher, a successful and wealthy businessman, who drove her to her Essex train.[31] After their first meeting she described him to Muriel as "not a very attractive creature – very reserved but quite nice".[20] In preparation for the election Roberts moved to Dartford, where she supported herself by working as a research chemist for J. Lyons and Co. in Hammersmith, part of a team developing emulsifiers for ice cream.[32] Shortly after her marriage to Denis, she and her husband began attending Anglican services and would later convert to Anglicanism.[33][34]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Margaret Thatcher
armãneashti: Margaret Thatcher
azərbaycanca: Marqaret Tetçer
Bân-lâm-gú: Margaret Thatcher
башҡортса: Маргарет Тэтчер
беларуская: Маргарэт Тэтчэр
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Маргарэт Тэтчэр
Bikol Central: Margaret Thatcher
български: Маргарет Тачър
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한국어: 마거릿 대처
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interlingua: Margaret Thatcher
لۊری شومالی: مارگارت تاچر
Lëtzebuergesch: Margaret Thatcher
македонски: Маргарет Тачер
مازِرونی: مارگارت تاچر
Bahasa Melayu: Margaret Thatcher
Baso Minangkabau: Margaret Thatcher
မြန်မာဘာသာ: မာဂရက် သက်ချာ
Nederlands: Margaret Thatcher
नेपाल भाषा: मार्गरेट थ्याचर
norsk nynorsk: Margaret Thatcher
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Margaret Thatcher
Plattdüütsch: Margaret Thatcher
português: Margaret Thatcher
संस्कृतम्: मार्गरेट थाचर
Simple English: Margaret Thatcher
slovenščina: Margaret Thatcher
српски / srpski: Маргарет Тачер
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Margaret Thatcher
Basa Sunda: Margaret Thatcher
татарча/tatarça: Маргарет Тэтчер
українська: Маргарет Тетчер
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: ماگرىت ساچىر
Tiếng Việt: Margaret Thatcher
žemaitėška: Margareta Tečer