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Historical Highlight: Margaret Thatcher

blog cover - margaret thatcher

Date of Birth: October 13, 1925
Died On: April 8, 2013
Cause of Death: Stroke

10 Fascinating Facts About Margaret Thatcher

  • First female Prime Minister of the UK
  • Nicknamed “The Iron Lady”
  • Worked as a food scientist to help develop soft serve ice cream in the UK
  • Mother to twins, Mark and Carol
  • Was the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century for the UK
  • Was opposed to the EU
  • Enjoyed whiskey and sodas at the end of most days
  • Was born in parent’s apartment above her dad’s grocery store
  • Her favorite poet was Rudyard Kipling

Books Authored:

“The Downing Street Years”

“The Collected Speeches”

“The Path to Power”

“Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World”

Note: You can find signed copies of The Downing Street Years,” “The Path to Power,” and “The Collected Speeches” for sale here.

Early Political Career

Thatcher was elected as a Member of Parliament for Finchley. Thatcher ruffled feathers within her party in her maiden speech, by supporting a private member’s bill. This would be a continuous theme throughout her time in Parliament, going against party norms regarding homosexuality, abortion, and hare coursing. Raising quickly through the ranks of Parliament, Thatcher was selected by the United States Embassy to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program. This was atypical because she was not yet a Shadow Cabinet member. However, she was described as a possible future Prime Minister to the State Department, and they approved her role for the program.

Continuing her trend of moving quickly through the ranks, Thatcher was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education and Science. While serving, Thatcher was often in the public spotlight because of the government’s attempts to cut spending. She gave priority to the academic needs of schools while administering expenditure cuts, which would eventually result in the removal of the free milk program. This would lead her to garner the nickname “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher.” It would eventually come out that she indeed, in fact, opposed the cuts and appropriation of funds, but the Treasury forced her hand.

Prime Minister (1979-1990)

On May 4, 1979, Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. During his time as Prime Minister, Thatcher met weekly with Queen Elizabeth II to discuss government business. Although it was rumored that these two developed a power struggle, it was denied by both parties involved. The economy under Thatcher started very poorly, but towards the end of her time was booming. It wasn’t until 1983 before the economy turned for the better under Thatcher. In 1983 inflation and mortgage rates fell to their lowest in 13 years. By 1987 unemployment was falling, the economy stable and the inflation rate was low.

Under Margaret Thatcher, the term “Thatcherism” was born. This described her style of politics and how she would lead the United Kingdom. Specifically, “a political platform emphasizing free markets with restrained government spending and tax cuts coupled with British nationalism both at home and abroad.” Privatization is a crucial piece of Thatcherism. Industries that were privatized under Thatcher were gas, water, and electricity. In most cases, the privatization of the UK benefited the consumers regarding lower prices and improved efficiency.

Thatcher also dealt with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) during her time in office. These groups were prisoners who carried out hunger strikes to regain the status of political prisoners. As a result, violence increased during this period and eventually would lead to the deaths of 10 prisoners after Thatcher’s refusal. This would lead to an assassination attempt on Thatcher in 1984 by the PIRA. She would survive and eventually grant partial rights to paramilitary prisoners only.

Later Life

Thatcher’s premiership would end in 1990 after being contested by fellow Conservative Michael Heseltine. After losing the second vote against Thatcher initially wanted to challenge the vote and Heseltine, but after consultation, she would eventually succumb and resign as Prime Minister.

It was during her first few years out of power that she would pen two volumes of her memoirs, The Downing Streets Year and The Path to Power. During the time leading up to her death in 2013, Thatcher remained very active in the political world. She made speeches all over the globe on behalf of many different organizations. She was vocally supportive of the United States efforts in the Middle East during the George H. W. Bush administration.

In the years before 2013, Thatcher’s health began to decline. Despite being hospitalized a number of times before her passing, Thatcher attended as many events and ceremonies as physically possible.

On April 8, 2013, Margaret Thatcher passed away at the age of 83 after suffering from a stroke. At her funeral she received full military honors with Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in attendance, marking only the second time that the Queen had attended the funeral of a former Prime Minister.

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Historical Highlight: Winston Churchill

historical figure highlight: winston churchill

Date of Birth: November 30, 1874
Died On: January 24, 1965 (age 90)
Cause of Death: Stroke

10 Fascinating Facts About Winston Churchill

  • Was voted the “Greatest Briton” of all time by the people of the United Kingdom
  • Failed his military entrance exam twice
  • Escaped from a prison camp in South Africa
  • It’s believed that he invented the word summit
  • Loved whiskey and cigars
  • Favorite movie was That Hamilton Woman
  • His favorite cat, Jock, was by his side as he died
  • Wore slip-on shoes that gave the appearance they were lace-ups
  • His mother was born in America
  • Was hit by a car on 5th Ave while visiting New York City

Early Years in Parliament and Resignation (1900-1916)

Winston Churchill won the seat of Oldham in the 1900 general election. Originally as a member of the Conservative Party, Churchill opposed many of the party’s policies. This would ultimately lead Churchill to be deselected from his seat by his constituents. In the 1904 general election, Winston Churchill crossed the floor and officially became a member of the Liberal Party.

In 1906, Churchill was voted out as the seat of Oldham but was invited to represent Manchester North West. After two years in this seat was promoted to the Cabinet as the President of the Board of Trade. In October of 1911, Churchill was appointed as First Lord of Admiralty.

After serving in this capacity for a couple of years, Churchill resigned on November 15, 1915, feeling his energies were not being used properly.

Return to Parliament and Political Isolation (1916-1940)

After a four-month hiatus, Churchill returned to the UK from France as becoming restless while serving in the army. He was appointed Minister of Munitions in July of 1917, and then in January of 1919 was appointed to Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air. During this time, he was the main architect of the Ten Year Rule. He also was a strong advocate for the Allied intervention of the Russian Civil War.

After a series of different jobs and titles throughout Parliament, he once again stood for a Liberal seat in 1923, only this time he lost in Leicester. He switched sides once again after his loss in 1923 but quickly became estranged with Conservatives. This would eventually lead to Churchill’s political isolation.

During this time Churchill’s reputation waned. He was viewed negatively by many in Parliament, but the beginning of WWII helped Churchill’s reputation. The day that Britain declared war on Germany, Winston Churchill was appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty once again.

Prime Minister (1940-1945)

After Prime Minister Chamberlain’s debacle in Norway, it became clear through Parliament that Chamberlain was incapable of leading the country through WWII, eventually leading to his resignation. Upon his resignation, Chamberlain, as well as others, recommended Churchill to fill his seat as Prime Minister.

On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. At the age of 65, there were concerns about Churchill when he took over. However, many wrote that taking over such an important and demanding position energized Churchill and truly uplifted him as a person.

As he navigated through WWII, Churchill had an outstanding relationship with the United States president Franklin Roosevelt. Although he was vehemently against communism, Churchill sent supplies and tanks to the Soviet Union when they were invaded by Nazi Germany.

Resignation and Second Term as Prime Minister (1951-1955)

With the general election in 1945 looming, Churchill resigned as Prime Minister in response to the Labour Minister’s refusal of the continuation of the wartime coalition. As a result, he accepted the King’s invitation to form a new government, which would become to be known as the Churchill Caretaker Ministry. However, Churchill didn’t have the support of enough Conservatives and would ultimately lose the election of 1945. In the six years between his terms as Prime Minister Churchill served as the Leader of Opposition.

In the general election of 1951 however, Winston Churchill became the Prime Minister once again. During his second term, foreign policy crises were persistent. Colonial issues with Kenya and Malaya were on the forefront. A post-war relationship between Britain and the United States was also a large concern during Churchill’s second term. Trying to remain allies, while not cowering to the Americans heavily weighed on Churchill.

Final Retirement and Death (1955-1965)

For years leading up to his resignation, he had been advised that it was time to retire due to the fact that he suffered multiple strokes. Eventually admitting that both his physical and mental health was declining, he finally retired as Prime Minister in 1955. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Winston Churchill suffered a series of strokes, and on January 15, 1965, he would suffer his final one. Nine days later on January 24, 1965, Winston Churchill passed away in his London home at the age of 90.