The Thatcher Years

The Thatcher Years


  • Margaret Thatcher served as the Prime Minister of the UK from 1979 to 1990, becoming the first female Prime Minister.
  • Her time in office is often known as the ‘Thatcher Years’ and was characterised by certain economic policies and domestic decisions that initiated significant change in Britain.
  • Thatcher’s rule saw economic liberalisation, contentious domestic policies, social tension, and decisive foreign affairs actions.

Economic Changes:

  • Thatcher’s government applied the principles of ‘Thatcherism’, which championed economic liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation.
  • Industries such as gas, water, electricity, and telecommunications were privatised.
  • These principles indicated a clear shift from the post-war consensus of Keynesian economics, focusing more on free market policies and less intervention from the state.
  • The government tackled inflation by controlling money supply, a policy known as ‘monetarism’.

Social Impact:

  • Removal of subsidies caused several traditional industries like coal and steel to collapse, leading to high unemployment especially in the North.
  • Social inequalities widened; the South and the service sector prospered while industrial towns faced hardship, known as the ‘North-South divide’.
  • There were numerous social movements and protests, most notably, the Miners’ Strike (1984-85).

Political Changes:

  • Thatcher’s strong ideological belief and assertiveness earned her the name ‘The Iron Lady’.
  • There was a significant shift to the right in British politics under Thatcher’s leadership.
  • The Falklands War (1982) boosted Thatcher’s popularity and solidified her leadership.

Cultural Shifts:

  • Thatcherism instigated a cultural shift towards individualism and personal responsibility.
  • The supremacy of the market economy over public welfare became a dominant theme, impacting British society at multiple levels.
  • The decline of traditional industries led to widespread deindustrialisation and the rise of the service sector.

International Relations:

  • The relationship with Europe was contentious with Thatcher expressing scepticism towards increasing European integration.
  • Thatcher maintained a strong relationship with the United States, particularly with President Reagan, reflecting common political and economic ideologies.
  • Thatcher’s decisive response to the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands reinforced Britain’s international standing.