The Creighton Lecture 2018: When was Thatcherism?

The Creighton Lecture 2018: When was Thatcherism?
29 Nov 2018, 18:00 to 29 Nov 2018, 19:30
IHR Wolfson Room NB01, Basement, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Richard Vinen, King’s College London

The Thatcher government of 1979-1990 provides one of the great punctuation marks of modern history. Historians, even those who are not working mainly on Britain, often divide the late twentieth century into pre- and post-Thatcher eras.  There is, however, something odd about this neat periodization. Even commentators of the 1970s and 1980s insisted that ‘Thatcherism’ did not simply mean, as one of her own ministers put it, ‘whatever Margaret Thatcher, at any time, said or did.’  This implies that ‘Thatcherism’ did not necessarily begin with Margaret Thatcher’s assumption of power or end with her deposition.  

This lecture will ask whether historians have overstated the disjunctures between Thatcher governments and those that preceded and succeeded it. It will also ask how far Thatcherism was a consistent project and how much it changed over time.  Has an emphasis on the specificity and coherence of Thatcherism created a false image of ‘normal’ politics that Thatcherism allegedly displaced.  Might it be that historians would find it more fruitful to periodize the late twentieth century in ways that make less reference to Thatcher?

Richard Vinen is an award-winning historian. He is Professor of History at King's College, London and specialises in twentieth century history. He recently published Thatcher’s Britain (2009) and National Service: A Generation in Uniform (2014, winner of the Templer Medal and the Wolfson History Prize) . Previously he has worked mainly on twentieth century France and produced a number of publications on Vichy, the fourth republic and the Algerian War. These researches culminated in the publication of The Unfree French: Life under the Occupation (2006) which looks at the consequences of the French army’s defeat in 1940 through the daily lives of those caught up in the horrors of war. He has also written a general book on twentieth century Europe, A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century (2000).


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