The Iron Lady

by Hugo Young

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 493

A well-known bestseller, The Iron Lady by Hugo Young is an enlightening personal and political biography.

Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister of Britain, serving for eleven years. Though she was often underestimated and disregarded, Thatcher did not let skeptics deter her from her mission: to affect change for Britain. Young claims that “Her victory made her unique not only in the history of Britain, but in that of the Western world.”

Thatcher was known for her resolute decision-making and embraced the title of “The Iron Lady," which was given to her by a Soviet journalist following her "Britain Awake" speech. Young writes that Thatcher was "a ruthless crusading leader who knew she was right and had the supreme duty to remain in power.'' She had a peaceful yet commanding presence, and she ruled with decisive action. Thatcher was not one for frivolous dialogue or wasted time. When facing opposition from political foes, Thatcher remained true to her convictions, once boldly proclaiming “this lady’s not for turning.” She did not fold in the face of pressure or criticism from her male colleagues, and she was known for her passionate nationalism.

Young asserts that

Margaret Thatcher is the most famous British leader since Winston Churchill. As well as being the only prime minister this century whose name has become synonymous with a political philosophy—"Thatcherism‟ has no antecedents—she is the object of a singular fascination all around the world.

Margaret Thatcher grew up in a small town and came from a serious family, where the family members "… were all serious-minded, and they worked too hard. Life was a serious matter to be lived conscientiously.” Thatcher was very close with her father, whom she respected greatly.

Thatcher studied at Oxford, where many believe she transformed, adopting the "classless, implacable, homogenized mind and manners which are typical of suburban southern England." She also stepped a leadership role as the President of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

Politically, Young asserts that “there was a genuine clash of cultures, between an almost Cromwellian impatience with the status quo (on the part of the Thatcherites) and the mandarin world of Whitehall, in which skepticism and rumination were more highly rated habits of mind than zeal or blind conviction.” Often associated with President Ronald Reagan, Thatcher had decidedly conservative perspectives over her years in office.

Young is frank about struggles and problems faced by Thatcher's administration. When discussing the Falklands and war of 1982, he demonstrates how Thatcher cleverly appealed to not only British citizens but global citizens, as well: “The struggle, she said, was between good and evil. It went far wider than the Falklands and their 1,800 British people. It was a challenge to the West.” Likewise, Young states that

In the political history of Margaret Thatcher the war played the part of an unqualified triumph. Because it ended in great victory . . . it made her position unassailable, both in the party and in the country.

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