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Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship

Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship

3.8 6
by Richard Aldous

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An iconic friendship, an uneasy alliance—a revisionist account of the couple who ended the Cold War.
For decades historians have perpetuated the myth of a "Churchillian" relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, citing their longtime alliance as an example of the "special" bond between the United States and Britain. But, as Richard Aldous


An iconic friendship, an uneasy alliance—a revisionist account of the couple who ended the Cold War.
For decades historians have perpetuated the myth of a "Churchillian" relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, citing their longtime alliance as an example of the "special" bond between the United States and Britain. But, as Richard Aldous argues in this penetrating dual biography, Reagan and Thatcher clashed repeatedly—over the Falklands war, Grenada, and the SDI and nuclear weapons—while carefully cultivating a harmonious image for the public and the press. With the stakes enormously high, these political titans struggled to work together to confront the greatest threat of their time: the USSR.
Brilliantly reconstructing some of their most dramatic encounters, Aldous draws on recently declassified documents and extensive oral history to dismantle the popular conception of Reagan-Thatcher diplomacy. His startling conclusion—that the weakest link in the Atlantic Alliance of the 1980s was the association between the two principal actors—will mark an important contribution to our understanding of the twentieth century.

Editorial Reviews

Geoffrey Wheatcroft
It is a remarkable story, which deserves the fresh account that Richard Aldous…gives it in Reagan and Thatcher. His book casts new light on the heroic version in which two great leaders continued the struggle for freedom waged for generations past by "the English-speaking peoples"…Aldous's account is valuable and well informed…
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Aldous re-examines popular myths of the closeness of the political partnership between President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, drawing on recently declassified documents, interviews, and newly opened private archives. Aldous (The Lion and the Unicorn), professor of British history and literature at Bard, reveals the dynamics between the leaders who ushered in the collapse of the cold war. He presents a “complex, often fractious” and competitive relationship from 1981 through the heated disputes between the two leaders over the Falkland conflict, nuclear arms, and Soviet strategies. Aldous says that while Reagan’s style was anecdotal and without frills, Thatcher’s leadership tone was “policy-driven, analytical,” and very confrontational. “It all worked,” Thatcher once said, “because he was more afraid of me than I was of him.” Yet Thatcher feared Reagan’s willingness to engage in unilateral military actions, such as invading Grenada and retaliating after the attack on American barracks in Lebanon. Aldous shows the leaders navigating on a high wire in a hothouse political climate, agreeing to disagree while never exposing the other to ridicule. This is excellent revisionist history, giving another slant to the interaction of two political icons on the world stage. 8 pages of photos. Agent: Georgina Capel at Capel and Land (Mar.)
An interesting revisionist history, Aldous’ study should attract the foreign policy audience.— Gilbert Taylor
Gilbert Taylor - Booklist
“An interesting revisionist history, Aldous’ study should attract the foreign policy audience.”
Harold Evans
“I can’t speak for President Reagan, but I’ve been both praised and pulverized by Margaret Thatcher and Richard Aldous seems to me to have captured the force of her personality. She did have an emotional understanding of Reagan and her of her that in its essence, in my judgement, was warmer than between Churchill and Roosevelt. But her fury was incandescent over the invasion of Grenada, a member of the Commonwealth, as was the wimpiness of the initial American reaction to the seizure of the Falkland Islands. This is a valuable look behind the looking glass of public-relations politics of the special relationship.”
Prof. David Reynolds (Cambridge)
“Vivid, fast-paced and immensely readable, Richard Aldous' new book challenges conventional wisdom and prods us to rethink the 1980s.”
David Cannadine
“An important study, based on a wealth of recently-released documents, which puts the Thatcher-Reagan friendship in a wholy new (and more somber) light. It should be essential reading for anyone who cares about the history, the health and the future of the Anglo-American 'special relationship'.”
Kirkus Reviews
A historian charts the ups, downs, and in-betweens of a transatlantic partnership that defined an era. The just-released biopic starring Meryl Streep is likely to spark renewed interest in the whip-smart, hectoring and humorless Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first woman prime minister. No small part of her legacy was the relationship with her philosophical, transatlantic counterpart, the big-picture, affable Ronald Reagan. Partners in helping to end the Cold War, Reagan and Thatcher were always careful publicly to paper over differences, to appear united, to demonstrate that the "Special Relationship" between Britain and America remained unshakeable. But during the eight years their tenures overlapped, there were frequent, occasionally sharp differences between these two different personalities who seemingly shared only two traits: deep conservative conviction and an absolute devotion to their nation's interest as they understood it. Although Reagan's senior in service on the world stage, Thatcher was acutely conscious of her country's inferior power position. Accordingly, she set out early to court the American president. Relying for color on declassified documents, interviews, oral histories and the published accounts of many observers, Aldous (British History and Literature/Bard Col.; The Lion and the Unicorn: Gladstone vs. Disraeli, 2007, etc.) revisits the two tangling over supplying technology for Soviet construction of the Siberian gas pipeline, over arms sales and control and over nuclear weapons and Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Reagan disappointed Thatcher by his less-than-full-throated support for her Falklands war; she responded with lukewarm enthusiasm for his Grenada invasion. They disagreed over policy in Lebanon and Libya, and they clashed over how best to deal with Gorbachev. Throughout, Aldous carefully and persuasively demonstrates the elaborate care each took to "handle" the other, precautions unnecessary had the relationship been as close as publicly portrayed. A revealing look at the political marriage of two titans, who, like Roosevelt and Churchill, will be forever linked in history.

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Meet the Author

Richard Aldous is a professor of history at Bard College, where he holds the Eugene Meyer Chair. He is the author and editor of eleven books, including The Lion and the Unicorn and Reagan and Thatcher. Aldous is a contributor to television and radio on both sides of the Atlantic, and his writing appears regularly in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times Book Review,
and the American Interest, where he is a contributing editor.
He lives in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

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Reagan and Thatcher 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
2silverspurs More than 1 year ago
I am giving this book 5 stars because of the other reviews on this book. I have not read the book, but neither have these other mean spirited demoncrats (rats).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Contrary to another review of this book that I read, neither Regan nor Thatcher led to any cause of financial disaster. They did do much in destroying communism and anyone who says different is a lyer (a.k.a. democrat).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always figured Thatcher was the real woman behind Reagan, she kept him on his toes or he would have looked like a big wusse. The fact Reagan had to allow illegal squatters to get amnesty so he could get elected to a 2nd term when he was in the ditch is unforgivable. We now have over 20 million illegals here wanting the same 'gift'. The 11 million illegals who signed the census so the Hispanice community can get more money isn't even close to the real count, but thanks to election time thats the count Hispanic PEW and politicians want us to believe. Hispanic PEW wants the Dream Act, so they refuse the leave their desks to tell the truth about low balling the real illegal count.
revolutionaryMG More than 1 year ago
Two of historys giants if you live in a land of mental midgets! They had more to do with setting the world on a path of financial destruction than anything that really cause the downfall of an already decaying Communist Soviet Union.It is no wonder that in their waning years both of these mythologically vaunted phonies spent their final days as blithering idiots,neither of them writing memoirs because the truth is their legacy and only accomplishment was the greatest shift in wealth from the many to the few in all of human history.