Margaret Thatcher was among the most vigorous and disciplined enemies of socialism the world has known, a woman who permanently changed not only the course of British history, but that of all history. Achieving things that no woman before her had achieved, she simultaneously exploited every politically useful aspect of her femininity and turned every conventional expectation of women upside its head. She has thus passed into mythological status even before her death.
My book about her is not a conventional biography. It is an argument for Thatcher’s place in history and a portrait of her extraordinary personality. It is based upon archival research, my own memories of living through the Thatcher years in Britain, and interviews with her political intimates and enemies. In telling her story, focusing on the drama of her time in power, the force of the opposition to her reforms, and the improbability of her accomplishments, my aim is to show that Thatcher changed the parameters of economic and political debate the globe over. I argue that recognizing what she achieved in Britain—and coldly appraising the cost of her victories—is as essential for our generation as for hers.
I find Thatcher fascinating, obviously, and I am on her side. But this is neither a hagiography nor a bracing bromide for Conservatives. In some aspects, Thatcherism has offered an uninspiring example. I recognize the failures of monetarism, and I appreciate the harsh social consequences of her policies in many British communities, particularly in the north. I acknowledge the bitter costs of her victory in human misery and social discord. These are costs that Britain continues to pay. But I do not allow her failures to overshadow her singular significance.
I lived in England through the latter half of the Thatcher years. I studied at Balliol, the most Left-wing college at Oxford and a center of seething opposition to Thatcherism. During that time I took a First-Class degree in modern British History and then a doctorate in International Relations. I am qualified to write this book as a well- trained archival historian. But as a journalist and writer of popular fiction, I’m also qualified to give this subject the dramatic, intense, immediate treatment it deserves, to vividly evoke Thatcher’s personality and that of the people around her, as well as the mood of the epoch.
My goal has been to inform, but also to entertain. This is not an academic book; it is a work of popular non-fiction for a general audience: punchy, opinionated, spirited and topical. There is a focus on scene, mood, and personalities—hers, of course, but also those of the people around her. Although it is based on original archival research and interviews, it is intended to be a lot more fun to read than any other book in print about Margaret Thatcher. My goal has been to make the woman walk right off the page, in all her incarnations — diva, mother of the nation, coy flirt, Caligula, Brigitte Bardot, screeching harridan, Bodicaea the Warrior Queen, stern headmistress and frugal housewife, all in one, all committed to the utter destruction of socialism. It is intended to be vivid, dramatic, and almost novelistic.
The historical facts about Thatcher are well-known: My aim is to impress upon the reader just how remarkable she really was.