Margaret Thatcher

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Biography of Margaret Roberts Thatcher, a British policy who served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990.

Her arrival in power led to a complete transformation of the United Kingdom in relation to business, education and social assistance.

Margaret Thatcher was a fundamental element, together with Donald Reagan and John Paul II, to end the cold war between the West and the USSR.

Her firm character and determination that earned her the nickname “The Iron Lady” became palpable in international summits, with the opposition, in clashes with British unions and in the stubborn persecution of IRA terrorists.

Early years and education

Margaret Thatcher was born in Lincolnshire, on October 13, 1925. She was baptized as Margaret Roberts.

Her father was Alfred Roberts of Grantham; and her mother was Beatrice Ethel of Lincolnshire.

Margaret lived her childhood in Grantham, where her father owned two grocery stores. Her older sister, Muriel Roberts, was born in 1921.

The family lived in an apartment that was on the largest of the two stores.

Her father came from a liberal family and participated in local politics.

He was Mayor of Grantham, as an independent, between 1945 and 1946.

In the Methodist church he served as ruler and preacher.

The birthplace of Margaret Thatcher was Grantham, a population of about 35,000 inhabitants.

Despite its small size, the city is very well connected: located on the banks of the Witham River, through it passes the main railway line of the East Coast and the main road of the country, the A1.

The main monument of the city is the church of San Wolfram: it dates from the 13th century. It has the sixth tallest tower in England; and in it is the oldest public library in the country, founded in 1598.

Wolfram Church Margaret Thatcher
St. Wolfram’s Church in Grantham, built in the 13th century. Credit: Wikipedia

The great scientist Isaac Newton studied at the King’s School in Grantham.

Studies and education of Margaret Thatcher

Margaret obtained a school scholarship to study at the “Grantham Women’s School”.

Her extracurricular activities included piano, field hockey, poetry recitals, swimming and hiking.

Thanks to the excellent school results, Margaret won a scholarship to study Chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford.

She arrived in Oxford in 1943 and graduated four years later, in 1947, as a Bachelor of Science.

In the last year, she specialized in X-ray crystallography under the supervision of Dorothy Hodgkin.

The British Dorothy Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.

Somerville Margaret Thatcher
The University of Somerville founded in 1879, had among its students Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi. Credit: Wikipedia

In those same years, but in London, another British woman, Rosalind Franklin, was conducting transcendental studies related to DNA through the use of X-ray crystallography.

Beginnings of Margaret Thatcher’s working life

After graduating from Somerville College, Margaret began working as a plastics chemistry researcher in the city of Colchester, a city 90 km northeast of London.

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher in the year 1950. Credit: website

One of her Oxford friends was also a friend of the president of the political party “Association of Conservatives” of Dartford. This friend introduced her to Margaret Roberts.

Margaret was excited about the idea of becoming a politician; To do this, she had begun to study law.

In 1948, on one of the trips to Dartford, she met Denis Thatcher, a successful businessman 10 years older than her, and divorced.

Margaret Thatcher’s initiation in politics

The leaders of the Dartford Association were impressed by Margaret’s overwhelming presence.

She was offered to take her on the official list as a conservative candidate for Dartford in January 1951.

Margaret liked the idea, and also attracted by Mr. Denis Thatcher, she moved to Dartford.

There she accepted a job as a chemical researcher at the company “J. Lyons and Co. “.

She was part of the team responsible for preparing emulsifiers for ice cream preservation.

Her political career in the 1950s

In the general elections of 1950 and 1951, Margaret was a conservative candidate in Dartford.

Although she lost both times, she attracted the attention of the media for being the youngest and the only female candidate.

She had also intensified relations with Denis Thatcher, with whom she married in December 1951.

Margaret Denis Thatcher
Margaret and Denis Thatcher. Credit: web

Denis Thatcher had realized Margaret’s enormous potential and encouraged her to finish Law and be able to enroll in the Bar Association.

Margaret specialized in tax law and in 1953 she was received as a barrister.

It was already called “Margaret Thatcher” (Barrister is one of two types of lawyers that exist in England).

In that same year 1953, her twins, Carol Thatcher and Mark Thatcher were born.

Margaret dedicated herself to caring for her children and waited until 1959 to get involved in politics.

For her part, Denis Thatcher encouraged her to undertake her political career.

The love he had for her, made his generous support faint under any circumstances.

Margaret Thatcher, Member of Parliament

From the beginning, Margaret Thatcher did not go unnoticed in Parliament and her Party began to entrust various responsibilities:

  • 1961, Parliamentary Undersecretary in the Ministry of Pensions and Social Affairs.
  • 1961, spokesman for Housing and Land.
  • 1966, member of Her Majesty’s Treasury team.
  • 1967 was selected by the US Embassy in London to participate in a professional exchange program that gave her the opportunity to spend about six weeks visiting several cities, political figures and institutions.
  • 1967, Fuel spokesman for the shadow cabinet of the Conservatives.
  • 1969, Ministry in the shadow of Transport and also of Education.

Margaret Thatcher worked actively in rejecting Labor Party policies that favored tax increases and the advancement of socialism and communism.

She tenaciously opposed the laws that facilitated divorce and abortions.

As a member of the conservatives, she advocated vigorously to decriminalize male homosexuality, prohibit the hunt for hares and maintain the validity of capital punishment.

Margaret Thacher, Minister of Education

In the 1970 general elections in the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party led by Edwards Heath won with 330 seats against 287 Labor.

The new cabinet included Margaret Thatcher as Minister of Education and Science.

Her management was very controversial because she imposed cuts in public spending in the state education system.

Among these cuts, the suppression of free milk for students between seven and eleven years, caused a storm of protests by the Labor Party and the press.

During the four years of her activity as Minister of Education, Margaret Thatcher gave incontrovertible samples of her enormous management capacity: she presented 3,612 proposals for school reform; only 326 were rejected.

The proportion of students attending comprehensive high schools increased from 32% to 62%.

Leader of the opposition between 1975 and 1979

In the 1974 general election, the conservative government of Edward Heath was defeated and the Labor formed a minority government in the United Kingdom.

Margaret Thatcher expressed her opposition to Heath’s continuity at the head of the conservative party.

On February 11, 1975, Margaret Thatcher was elected as leader of the conservative party.

Since the 1960s, Margaret was influenced by experts from the Institute of Economic Affairs, especially Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon.

These led to an economic movement opposed to the so-called “welfare state”.

For this, they proposed just the opposite, that is: less state administration, lower taxes, provide greater facilities for undertaking business and stimulate private activity.

As leader of the main opposition party, Margaret Thatcher had continuous public interventions.

In them, it was notorious that the timbre of her voice was somewhat unpleasant and that she had a marked village accent, from Linconshire.

To solve these defects, she asked for help; and none other than Mr Laurence Olivier got her some lessons with the vocal coach of the National Theater.

On January 19, 1976, Margaret made a speech in which she made a scathing attack on the Soviet Union; among other things, she said:

The Russians are bent on world dominance, and are rapidly acquiring the resources to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has ever seen.

Men in the Soviet politburo do not have to worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion. They put weapons before butter, while we put almost everything before weapons ”.

In his response to this attack, the editor of the Moscow “Red Star” newspaper branded her as the “Iron Lady”.

Margaret Thatcher stayed the rest of her life with this nickname.

During the winter of 1978, the Labor government had to face a series of strikes sparked by the general discontent of the working class.

Conservatives censured the government and forced it to call general elections in early 1979.

Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister (1979-1981)

Conservatives were able to form a majority in the House of Commons, which is why on May 4, 1979 Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister.

She was the first woman to hold this position in the history of the United Kingdom.

The press was always alert to any discrepancies between her and Queen Elizabeth.

Those who were waiting to see how it was that the country was governed by a woman, immediately perceived her firmness in directing the affairs of state and her strict dominance over the ministers of her cabinet.

As soon as she reached 10 Downing Street, she introduced a series of political and economic initiatives.

Margaret Thatcher and the unions

These initiatives affected the deregulation of the financial sector, the flexibility in the labor market, the privatization of public companies and the reduction of the power of the unions.

Margaret Thatcher was determined to reduce the power of the unions.

She accused its leaders of negatively influencing parliamentary democracy and economic development with their continuous strikes.

In 1979 the number of labor strikes amounted to 4,583 across the United Kingdom.

The power of the unions had grown to the point of decision-making power at the government level.

Margaret Thatcher and the economic recession

In the early 1980s the economic recession in the United Kingdom worsened considerably.

The revenue from the North Sea oil extraction tax was not enough to balance the budget and pay the costs of the reforms.

Margaret Thatcher had to increase income taxes, which earned her the rejection of public opinion.

With the sales of the public services companies of the State and the parastatal industries, large incomes were generated in the public coffers.

However, Margaret Thatcher was always opposed to the privatization of the railway.

The privatization process of industries and services benefited consumers in terms of lower prices and greater efficiency.

But it caused a violent reaction from the unions, which were very well-off.

This time they encountered a government that did not hesitate to use force to impose the measures she considered to be of public good.

Margaret Thatcher and the rebellions in Northern Ireland

One of the worst problems Margaret Thatcher inherited was the longstanding violent rebellion in Northern Ireland.

In 1980 and 1981, prisoners from the IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army, in an attempt to be recognized as “political prisoners”, carried out several hunger strikes. The first lasted 53 days.

In 1981, one of the IRA leaders, Bobby Sands, announced an indefinite hunger strike, declaring that they would fast to death if necessary, unless their demands were met.

Margaret Thatcher refused to return the status of political prisoners, which they claimed.

She declared that “crime is crime and nothing more than crime; there is nothing political about crime ”.

Bobby Sands and nine of his companions remained until they died in this hunger strike.

In October 1981, three days after the end of the strike for those still alive, the Minister for Northern Ireland announced partial concessions to the prisoners.

The only demand denied was that of not doing prison work.

Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister (1982-1985)

In 1982, Margaret’s economic policy began to bear fruit and inflation fell from 18% to 8.6%.

But there were more than three million unemployed people.

The Malvinas war

On April 2, 1982, the military junta that ruled in Argentina ordered the invasion and occupation of the territories administered by the United Kingdom in the Falkland Islands.

This crazy adventure had been planned by President Leopoldo Galtieri and was well received by the Argentine people.

The United States unsuccessfully attempted mediation to prevent the war between Argentina and the United Kingdom.

The Argentine government refused to negotiate, trusting that the Falklands were a long way from England.

Dismissing British pride and the character of the Prime Minister, Galtieri dragged the noble Argentine people into an unmitigated disaster.

On April 6, 1982, the war cabinet organized by Margaret Thatcher authorized the deployment of a naval attack force to recover the Falkland Islands.

On May 21, 1982, after a long voyage across the ocean, the British landed in San Carlos Bay.

A week later, the offensive on Port Stanley began. Argentina surrendered on June 14, 1982 after 74 days of confrontation.

255 British, 3 Falklands and 649 Argentines died.

Margareth Thatcher was criticized and labeled as a war criminal.

Margaret Thatcher and the Cold War

However, the British praised her for her leadership, responsiveness and commitment to the UK.

This was one of the factors of her indisputable victory in the 1983 general election.

The Cold War was in effect and Margaret was in favor of President Ronald Reagan’s policies, based on their shared dislike for communism.

Margaret Thatcher also supported NATO’s decision to deploy nuclear ballistic missiles and cruises in Western Europe.

The serious problems in coal mining

In March 1984, the National Coal Council proposed closing 20 of the 174 state-owned mines.

Two-thirds of British miners, led by the National Union of Miners, went on strike.

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher with York Cops, in 1984. Credit: web

Margaret Thatcher refused to comply with the union’s demands.

After a year on strike, the cost to the economy was estimated to be at least £ 1.5bn and caused much of the pound’s decline against the US dollar.

In 1985 the government closed another 25 coal mines.

Margaret Thatcher’s relations with world leaders

Thatcher was one of the first Western leaders to welcome the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev amicably.

After the meetings between Reagan and Gorbachev, and the implementation of the latter’s reforms in the USSR, Margaret Thatcher was one of the first leaders in the West to receive the Soviet leader in a friendly manner.

Margaret Thatcher Gorbachov
Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev. Credit: web

Despite positioning herself against apartheid, Thatcher tried to maintain constant trade with South Africa.

In June 1984, while persuading President Botha to leave apartheid, she invited him to visit the United Kingdom.

In the early morning hours of October 12, 1984, Thatcher barely escaped unscathed from an attempted murder by the IRA at the Grand Hotel in Brighton.

Five people died, including the wife of the Head of the House of Commons and the Secretary of the Treasury.

Margaret delivered her speech as planned, and gained support and popularity from the public.

Denis Thatcher, her husband, was her best counselor and Margaret’s main support in times of crisis.

His affable and patient nature made him an informal ambassador for the United Kingdom.

During the 40 years they were married, he was always discreetly with his wife.

When the IRA bombed the Brighton Grand Hotel in 1984, he almost died with it.

Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister (1986-1990)

In January 1986, Thatcher’s preference for defense deals with the United States was demonstrated in the substantial acquisition of weapons for submarines and combat helicopters by US firms.

In 1987, unemployment had decreased and the economy was strengthened. Opinion polls showed conservatives with a broad lead.

Margaret Thatcher called a general election for June 11, 1987. And she was re-elected for a third consecutive term.

Margaret continued to pursue a strong foreign policy characterized by complete alignment with the foreign policy of the United States.

Margaret Thatcher’s rejection of the “European Union” project became more apparent after her third electoral victory in 1987.

She stressed her opposition to proposals to create a federal structure and an increase in centralization in decision making.

Margaret Thatcher and her party had supported the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Community, but believed that the role of the organization should be limited to ensuring free trade and effective competitiveness.

They feared that the approach of the future European Union would be against its objectives of diminishing the power of government in the country’s economy.

In 1988, she delivered a speech in which he said: “We have not narrowed the borders of state power in Great Britain, to see that they will be imposed at a European level, with a European super-state that will exercise a new domain from Brussels“.

In 1989, it became one of the most abhorred policies throughout the rest of her mandate, due to her reform in the local tax system.

The public discontent culminated in strikes and a mass demonstration in London on March 31, 1990.

Some historians claim that Margarer Thatcher managed to destroy the power of the unions for almost a generation.

In August 1990, while on an official visit to the United States, with President Bush, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Margaret Thatcher Bush
Margaret Thatcher and President Bush. Credit:

Bush was very hesitant about deploying his troops in the Middle East, to expel the Iraqi army out of Kuwait.

Margaret Thatcher told him, during a telephone conversation, that “this is not the time to falter!”

Challenges to her leadership and resignation

In the 1989 internal elections, Margaret Thatcher’s leadership in the Conservative Party was challenged by a little-known politician, Sir Anthony Meyer.

The vote was 374 votes in favor of Thatcher and 33 by Meyer.

However, the waters were going down turbulent.

On November 1, 1990, the last active member of her original cabinet, resigned his position because Margaret Thatcher refused to approve a program for the adoption of the “euro” as a single European currency.

The next day, another of the leaders of the Conservative Party appeared against the candidacy of Margaret Thatcher and obtained sufficient support.

She, after meeting with the Queen, gave her final speech in the House of Commons and left Downing Street.

She publicly stated that she was very happy to have left the United Kingdom in a much better state than she had when the conservatives came to power eleven and a half years ago.

Thatcher was replaced as prime minister and as party leader by her chancellor John Major.

Life after her position as Prime Minister

Margaret Thatcher was disappointed to leave her position as Prime Minister in 1990.

In 1992, at 66, she left the House of Commons and created a Foundation.

She wrote two volumes of memoirs, “The Downing Street Years” (1993) and “The Path to Power” (1995).

In July 1992, she was hired by the tobacco company Philip Morris as “geopolitical advisor”.

In August 1992, she asked NATO to stop the Serbian assault in Goražde and Sarajevo to end ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian War.

She compared the situation there with the worst excesses of the Nazis and warned that there could be a holocaust.

She was honorary rector of the University of William and Mary in Virginia (1993-2000) and also of the University of Buckingham (1992-1999), the first of a private nature in the United Kingdom, which had opened in 1975.

On March 18, 2002, the book “Thatcher Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World“, dedicated to Ronald Reagan, was published. In it, she defended in particular 5 theses:

  • There would be no peace in the Middle East until Saddam Hussein was overthrown.
  • Israel should negotiate land for peace.
  • The European Union was essentially irreformable.
  • The European Union was a classic utopian project, a monument to the vanity of intellectuals, a program whose inevitable destiny is failure.

She argued that the United Kingdom should negotiate the terms of membership in the European Union. That it should leave the European Union and join the North American Free Trade Agreement.

A few days after the publication of the book, she suffered several small cerebral vascular accidents.

She announced that she would cancel all her planned speeches and that she would no longer agree to give any more.

On June 26, 2003, Sir Denis Thatcher, her beloved husband, died. The one who was always by her side, accompanying her and supporting her discreetly.

A year later, on June 11, 2004, her sister Muriel Roberts died.

A few days before, on June 5, 2004, he had passed away, Ronald Reagan.

One of Margaret’s many virtues was loyalty. Despite her illness and concern about the impending death of her sister Muriel, she flew to California and attended the ceremony and the funeral of President Ronald Reagan.

Margaret Thatcher celebrated her eightieth birthday, on October 13, 2005, in a ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Alejandra and Tony Blair.

In 2006, she was invited by Vice President Dick Cheney to attend an official memorial service in Washington, on the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack in the United States.

On February 21, 2007, she became the living prime minister, honored with a bronze statue in the Houses of Parliament.

Margaret delivered a speech in which she ironic, saying that she would have preferred the statue to be iron.

In her last years, she remained largely detained from public view due to her difficulties in communicating and mobilizing.

Since 2008, her health was seriously damaged and she could not even attend a celebration organized by the British government on the occasion of her 85th birthday.

She had begun to experience mild senile dementia since about 2000.

But in recent months she confused the Falklands war with the Bosnian war; they must constantly remind her that her husband Denis had died several years ago; and she was not able to speak for more than ten minutes because she lost and forgot the sentences.

Margaret Thatcher died on April 8, 2013, at 87 at the Ritz Hotel in London, as a result of a stroke.

According to her wishes, she did not receive a state funeral but was honored with a religious service in the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, where she was given military honors.

Her remains were cremated and deposited at the Royal Hospital Chelsea along with those of her husband, Denys Thatcher.

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