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Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship Hardcover – March 19, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“An interesting revisionist history, Aldous’ study should attract the foreign policy audience.” (Gilbert Taylor - Booklist)

“Starred review. This is excellent revisionist history, giving another slant to the interaction of two political icons on the world stage.” (Publishers Weekly)

“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.” (Harold Evans, author of The American Century)

“Vivid, fast-paced and immensely readable, Richard Aldous' new book challenges conventional wisdom and prods us to rethink the 1980s.” (Prof. David Reynolds (Cambridge), author of America, Empire of Liberty)

“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'.” (David Cannadine, author of The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy and Mellon: An American Life)

About the Author

Richard Aldous, the author of eight books, including The Lion and the Unicorn and Reagan and Thatcher, is the Eugene Meyer Professor of British History and Literature at Bard College. He lives in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (March 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393069001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393069006
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,482,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book provides a most informative and provocative history of the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Most contemporaneous media coverage of US-Great Britain relations, especially the "special relationship" between the president and the prime minister, portrayed two leaders and two countries who were in complete accord on all important policy points at all times. The book shows this perception to be incorrect, and analyzes quite perceptively the reasons for the occassional disconnects between the two. Publication of a book like this points out again how limited current news gathering and reporting is (of necessity), and how important it is to have a historical perspective on important events and relationships. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to have the curtain lifted on the truly "special relationship" that is so important to the foreign policy and the security of each country.
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Format: Hardcover
In this book, Aldous sets out to challenge the view that Reagan and Thatcher enjoyed a close political friendship based on shared ideology and beliefs, particularly in regard to foreign policy and the Soviet Union. He takes some of the major events of the era - the Falklands War, the US invasion of Grenada, Reagan's Star Wars initiative - to show how in fact the two leaders were often at odds both in policy and approach.

Aldous is a very accessible author and this book, like his earlier The Lion and the Unicorn, is an enjoyable read. However, it seemed to me that his central premise was faulty to the extent that I'm not convinced that a UK audience at least (of whom I'm one) ever believed that the two leaders were fully in tune on the subjects he raises. The failure of the US to provide full and early support over the Falklands crisis was publicly known at the time, as was the UK Government's dismay over the way the US intervened in Grenada. The various disagreements in approach to arms reduction and the Strategic Defence Initiative have been discussed in many previous books, not least in Thatcher's own autobiography The Downing Street Years, which Aldous uses extensively as one of his sources.

Despite these differences, there was no doubt that Thatcher and Reagan shared an over-arching world view particularly with regard to economic matters (which oddly Aldous barely touches on) and the on-going Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union. Aldous doesn't dispute this, concentrating instead on highlighting divisions in a few less significant incidents.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In Richard Aldous’s Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship, Aldous proves that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher never possessed the Churchillian “special relationship” propagated in the media. Instead, as his title suggests, it was a difficult relationship filled with disagreement and ups and downs over both domestic and foreign policies in the two kindred nations. Despite the deception for public image, both did possess commonalities that endured one to the other. Both shared a similar faith, Reagan a Baptist and Thatcher a Methodist. Their domestic policies were often similar, including a belief in low taxes, limited government, free market, a strong defense, and emphasis on nuclear deterrence. The cultivated relationship was tested early own and continued to be tried throughout Reagan’s eight years in office and Thatcher’s nearly twelve years as Prime Minister. Their new relationship was first tested as troubles rose in the Falkland Islands, followed by a coup in Grenada. Later, the Libyan bombing secured that Britain could be counted on, while the French were hesitant.

Of the presidents that Thatcher maintained political relations with, it was Reagan that she professed to be the most competent. His “belief” in democracy and a nuclear free world coupled with Thatcher’s growing relationship with new USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev helped to bring about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Although the USSR had been drained by the arms race, both Reagan and Thatcher created a situation that allowed the Soviet leader to agree in a reduction in nuclear arms. Particularly, Reagans Star Wars program as well as the initial plans for START, which would not go into affect until 1991 under President Bush.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The problem with revisionist history is the author comes to the subject with an agenda already in mind. He/She then proceeds to ignore virtually everything that disagrees with that agenda and to concentrate solely on what does. Was the Reagan - Thatcher relationship all milk and honey? Of course not. But I'll bet neither were Roosevelt and Churchill's, Eloise and Abelard's, Romeo and Juliet's, Burton and Taylor's. Okay, I'm going over the top but my point is no relationship, especially one so steeped in politics and national interests, is ever going to be without conflict.

In the epilogue Aldous does finally almost admit to his overemphasis when he quotes Lord Palmerston's famous comment that "Countries have neither permanent allies nor permanent enemies, just permanent interests." Quite true and it really goes a long way to explaining that, yes, Reagan and Thatcher did, at times, have some major disagreements. I think Aldous was an author in search of rancor and he very much overemphasized the disagreements that occurred during the Reagan - Thatcher years.

Having said that I do have to give the author very high marks for writing a spellbinding history of the 80s. He does a remarkable job of demonstrating the complicated and dynamic events and politics that shaped these years. One cannot read this work without being overwhelmed by the complexities that existed on the world stage and how the participants, most of the time, successfully navigated them.

Overall, an excellent work well worth reading; as is his "Lion and the Unicorn," which covers the Disreali - Gladstone years of the 19th century.
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