Our media treat leaders as personifying everything that matters, yet social scientists disdain leadership. Most of what we know about leaders comes from biographies. And biography, dominated by those wishing either to demonise, or to celebrate, their subject, is a craft monopolised by insiders, acolytes, and journalists. Regarding Margaret Thatcher, academics have discussed her premiership (1979–1990) in terms of economic change, social history, value transitions, and party decline. They display a disabling ambivalence over whether she was an agent or a manifestation of tectonic shifts. In parallel, there have been multiple biographies, the first published before she was defenestrated by her own party. A great deal, then, has already been written.
Stage door Maggie
The ad hoc premiership of a warrior queen
Not for Turning: The Life of Margaret Thatcher
by Robin Harris
Random House, $34.95 pb, 500 pp, 9780593072868
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography (Volume One: Not For Turning)
by Charles Moore
Allen Lane, $49.99 hb, 891 pp, 9780713992823
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James Walter is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Monash University, and has published widely on leadership, biography, and political ideas. Volume two of his history of the Australian prime ministership (with Paul Strangio and Paul ‘t Hart),The pivot of power: The Australian prime ministership 1950 –2016 (Miegunyah Press), was published in 2017.
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