The Path to Power Essay - Critical Essays

Margaret Hilda Roberts

The Path to Power

THE PATH TO POWER is a sequel to Margaret Thatcher’s first volume of memoirs, THE DOWNING STREET YEARS (1993). It traces her life from birth until she became prime minister in 1979. Although it contains considerably more information about her private life than the first volume did, it is primarily an account of how she entered politics and became a successful politician.

Thatcher’s career has attracted attention because she overcame two important barriers to rise to the top of British politics: She was female and of humble origin. Both were less important than is often assumed. While stressing the poverty of her childhood years, Thatcher acknowledges that the family had a maid and that her father was wealthy enough to finance her education at a private secondary school and at the University of Oxford.

Thatcher has little to say about the gender stereotypes she had to overcome. She is much more candid about the political advantages of being a female. After being elected to the House of Commons in 1959, Thatcher rose to high office unusually rapidly because it was customary that a certain proportion of government positions be held by women. To her own way of thinking, Thatcher was never a feminist; when she mentions feminism, it is usually in a critical sense.

Thatcher was a cabinet minister in Ted Heath’s 1970 government which underwent an abrupt reversal in economic policy. Thatcher later condemned Heath for this policy shift, but admits that if she was opposed to it at the time she should have resigned from the cabinet.

Although THE PATH TO POWER will not be the final word on Thatcher’s political career, it is essential reading for those interested in Britain’s first female prime minister.

Sources for Further Study

Contemporary Review. CCLXVII, August, 1995, p. 105.

The Economist. CCCXXXV, June 24, 1995, p. 82.

London Review of Books. XVII, July 6, 1995, p. 7.

New Statesman and Society. VIII, June 23, 1995, p. 45.

The New York Times Book Review. C, July 9, 1995, p. 5.

The Observer. June 11, 1995, p. 13.

The Spectator. CCLXXIV, June 17, 1995, p. 39.

The Times Literary Supplement. July 14, 1995, p. 27.

The Wall Street Journal. July 6, 1995, p. A6.

The Washington Post Book World. XXV, July 23, 1995, p. 1.