Margaret Thatcher was the longest serving Prime Minister for more than a century and was the first woman to serve as Prime Minister. A graduate of Oxford, with a master of arts degree she worked as a research chemist and a barrister, concentrating on tax law, before being elected to the House of Commons in 1953. She held several ministerial appointments including education minister. Elected leader of her Party (the Opposition) in 1975, she became Prime Minister in 1979.
Thatcher’s first two years in office were not easy. Unemployment was very high, but the economy slowly improved. Her reputation was also bolstered when she led the country to war against Argentina in the Falkland Islands. Shortly after this the Conservatives won the 1983 election by a landslide. Margaret Thatcher’s government followed a radical program of privatization and deregulation.
The aim was to reduce the role of government and increase individual self-reliance. She also became a familiar figure internationally, forming up a famous friendship with US President Reagan and gaining the praise of Soviet leader Gorbachev. One great difficulty during her time in office was the issue of Europe. Finally in 1990, her cabinet was divided over issues including the European Community, which forced her resignation. In 1992 she entered the House of Lords.