Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE DISENCHANTED ISLE by Charles Dellheim

THE DISENCHANTED ISLE

Mrs. Thatcher's Capitalist Revolution

By Charles Dellheim

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-393-03812-2
Publisher: Norton

 Perceptive reprise of what strong-willed Margaret Thatcher did and did not accomplish during her 11-year tenure as Great Britain's first woman prime minister. Before assessing how the Iron Lady fared in office, Dellheim (History/Arizona State Univ.) offers an informative briefing on the sociopolitical forces that sapped the UK's economic strength and helped shape the future PM after WW II. Influenced by her roots (Lincolnshire), class (lower-middle), religion (Methodism), gender, and upbringing as the favorite daughter of a self-reliant tradesman, Thatcher became what the author calls ``a conviction politician, a righteous leader who loathed compromise.'' Having snatched control of the Conservative Party from enervated Tory aristocrats, she led it to victory against Labour at age 54 in the general election of 1979. Once in power, the new premier moved at flank speed to replace Britain's welfare state with what she perceived as the blessings of an enterprise culture. As an awesomely self-assured head of government, Thatcher unleashed a convulsive counterrevolution that wrested control of the national agenda from entrenched guardians of the progressive consensus. With a solid majority in Parliament, she oversaw the privatization of state-owned industrial concerns, brought fractious trade unions to book, made business a respectable profession, and otherwise pushed Britain to make its own way; in the process, however, her abrasive, obdurate style antagonized small but important constituencies, in particular the Oxbridge-educated intelligentsia (a.k.a. the chattering classes). Ironically, it was fellow conservatives, not socialist diehards, who ousted Thatcher in hopes of fostering a kinder, gentler version of her Darwinian faith in capitalism and sovereignty. A savvy scholar's vivid and informative account of a consequential figure who indeed made a difference in an island nation ripe for change.