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Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship [Paperback]

Richard Aldous
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Book Description

7 Mar 2013

The uneasy alliance that lay at the heart of the relationship of two of the most powerful and controversial leaders of the late 20th century: Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

For three decades, historians have cited the long-term alliance of Reagan and Thatcher as an example of the special bond between the US and Britain.

But, as Richard Aldous argues, these political titans clashed repeatedly as they confronted 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 the Reagan-Thatcher diplomacy.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (7 Mar 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0099534096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099534099
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Aldous holds the Eugene Meyer Chair at Bard College, New York. His numerous books include REAGAN AND THATCHER (New York Times Editors' Choice, Sunday Times Best Books of the Summer, Christian Science Monitor Best Books of the Year, Publishers Weekly Starred Review), THE LION AND THE UNICORN: GLADSTONE VS. DISRAELI (Independent, Daily Telegraph, Irish Times books of the year) and GREAT IRISH SPEECHES (an Irish Times No.1 bestseller). Richard writes and reviews for the New York Times, the Irish Times and the Sunday Telegraph, and is a regular contributor to television and radio on both sides of the Atlantic.

Praise for REAGAN AND THATCHER: THE DIFFICULT RELATIONSHIP:

'This well-informed account casts new light on the heroic version of the two leaders' association.' New York Times 'Editor's Choice.'

"This gripping account of their difficult relationship reads like a thriller." Sunday Times "Must Reads" and Best Books of the Summer.

"This wonderful new history by Bard College professor Richard Aldous makes clear that the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was far more challenging and complex than is widely recognized." Christian Science Monitor Best Books of 2012.

'This brilliant book reminds readers of the simple lesson that in diplomacy, interests often trump ideology -- and spin trumps both.' Foreign Affairs.

'Intelligent, authoritative and extremely readable.' The Spectator.

'A well-researched, well-written and revisionist double portrait.' Wall Street Journal

'Aldous deserves nothing but credit for the masterly way in which he weaves accounts from published memoirs and recently declassified US material into a pacey, almost thriller-like account of the meetings and telephone calls between these two political giants. This is a work of history that can be read at one sitting.' Sunday Times.

'It is a remarkable story, which deserves the fresh account that Richard Aldous, a professor of history at Bard College, 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."' New York Times

'What Aldous manages to achieve is strong research with a vivid narrative style, bringing the most dramatic moments to life.' Guardian.

"An accurate picture of the Reagan-Thatcher dance does us all a favor." Daily Beast "Hot Reads".

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

"Reagan and Thatcher, a wonderful new book by Bard College professor Richard Aldous, makes clear that their alliance was far more challenging and complex than is widely recognized." Christian Science Monitor.

'This is a well-researched, highly readable book that effectively analyzes the relationship of the two leaders.' Washington Times.

"Aldous makes a compelling case that this important relationship between two historic figures was often complex ... The book offers a well-researched, well-written account of two friends in the heat of battle." Dallas Morning Post

'The portrait of these powerful figures is well drawn and particularly gives the reader a new view of Reagan as a more effective leader than some have portrayed him in the past. In scholarship it supersedes other works on the Reagan-Thatcher relationship.' Philadelphia Inquirer

"Thorough and engaging new history." Slate

'Aldous makes a thorough and compelling case that the Reagan-Thatcher relationship was as difficult as it was "special".' The Hill

'This eminently readable and fascinating book.' Irish Times.

'Richard Aldous has written a vivid, jaunty and highly readable account of the working relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.' The Tablet

"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.'
Kirkus Reviews

"Vivid, fast-paced and immensely readable, Richard Aldous' new book challenges conventional wisdom and prods us to rethink the 1980s."
David Reynolds, 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'.

"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 he 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'.

Praise for THE LION AND THE UNICORN: GLADSTONE VS. DISRAELI:

`Mutual loathing made their bruising encounters a riveting spectacle, richly enjoyed by the British public and recaptured, with great zest, by Richard Aldous in The Lion and the Unicorn.' New York Times.

`It does full justice to the drama inherent in a battle for political supremacy that was central to British history for decades.' Sunday Times.

'A cracking good read which captures the battle between these two extraordinary personalities.' Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor.

`With The Lion and the Unicorn, this epic showdown has found a worthy champion.' Literary Review

'Aldous's enthralling narative is notably judicious.' Independent on Sunday.

'Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone are the subjects of this engaging and gracefully written book. Why should Americans care about the rivalry between two British politicians who died more than a century ago? Because the events described in this book remind us of an important and timely truth.' National Review.

'Why such a book as this? Well, for enjoyment, among other things. Aldous is a gifted writer ... Still their story more than entertains. It instructs.' Weekly Standard.

`Connoisseurs of political rivalry have had much to enjoy this year, not least a history of the struggle for power between Gladstone and Disraeli.' Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year.

`The result is a hugely enjoyable joint biography.' The Independent.

`Aldous's smooth pacing and adroit writing bring a forgotten world back to life and demonstrate how two forceful if warring personalities can create a history that neither could have achieved acting alone.' Publishers Weekly.

`A rousing portrait of 19th-century England's most venomous political rivalry, featuring a highly readable exploration into the dueling natures of two powerful men.' Kirkus Reviews.

`Aldous deftly analyses this peculiar relationship, but also dramatises it - and does so with great panache.' Daily Telegraph.

`This lively joint biography makes clear they utterly loathed each other.' The Guardian.

`Richard Aldous has written an entertaining and thought-provoking book.' The Spectator.

`Aldous describes the different episodes of the rivalry with vividness, capturing the particular flavour of 19th-century political and social life.' New Statesman.

`Richard Aldous has set this drama with just the kind of care and skill these two extraordinary adversaries, authors and politicians undoubtedly deserve.' Irish Times.

'The Lion and the Unicorn - surprisingly, the first attempt at a double-biography of the great Victorian rivals Gladstone and Disraeli.' The Independent, Books of the Year

Product Description

Review

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

"Vivid, fast-paced and immensely readable, Richard Aldous's new book challenges conventional wisdom and prods us to rethink the 1980s" (Professor David Reynolds)

"An important study, based on a wealth of recently-released documents, which puts the Thatcher-Reagan friendship in a wholy new (and more sombre) light. It should be essential reading for anyone who cares about the history, the health and the future of the Anglo-American 'special relationship'" (Professor David Cannadine)

"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. This is a valuable look behind the looking glass of public-relations politics of the special relationship." (Harold Evans)

"Richard Aldous’s account of the most intriguing Anglo-American double act of them all provides many surprises . . . What Aldous manages to achieve is strong research with a vivid narrative style, bringing the most dramatic moments to life" (John Kampfner Observer)

Book Description

The uneasy alliance that lay at the heart of the relationship of two of the most powerful and controversial leaders of the late 20th century: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Methinks the author doth protest too much. 17 April 2012
By Dalgety
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I greatly enjoyed Richard Aldous,s previous book "The Lion and the Unicorn" about the Gladstone-Disraeli rivalry.In this book the author writes in the same elegant, readable stlye and combines it with meticulous research- but , wheras, Gladstone and Disraeli had geniune philosophical and policy differences - Reagan and Thatcher did not.Mr. Aldous works hard to try and prove that they did -but , in my view he fails to convince.There may have been some personal spats -eg - over the US invasion of Grenada in 1983- but nothing too long or lasting.
However, I would recommend you buy this v.readable and entertaining book and make up your own mind about the authors central thesis.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable despite some weaknesses... 15 Aug 2012
By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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 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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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile and informative 17 May 2012
By John E. Hayes - Published on Amazon.com
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to really understand what happened in the 1980s, then check this book out 10 Sep 2012
By Kurt A. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Over the last number of years, journalists and historians have talked about the close relationship that American President Ronald Reagan and British Primer Minister Margaret Thatcher enjoyed. In this fascinating book, author and professor Richard Aldous presents a very different, more nuanced look at the relationship between the two great leaders. Instead of being an instant and constant communion of souls, they often found themselves at loggerheads, being pulled by their inclinations and interests in very different directions!

Overall, I found this to be an absolutely fascinating book. It does a great job of presenting the history of the 1980s as it was experienced by the two leaders and their governments. I was quite interested in the squabbles that they had, and also how they did, nonetheless, work together. In many ways their relationship was like a marriage - two people working together, though often struggling with going in two separate directions, and yet working together.

If you want to really understand what happened in the 1980s, then I would highly recommend that you check this book out. You won't regret it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable despite some weaknesses... 19 Aug 2012
By FictionFan - Published on Amazon.com
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. As a result, the central argument of the book seems both weak and unproven.

Nonetheless I feel the book is well researched and gives a good, readable account of some of the most interesting aspects of the Reagan/Thatcher era, as well as a sympathetic and often amusing view of both leaders as people, and on those bases I would recommend it as well worth reading.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not really all that difficult 10 July 2012
By Wallau reader - Published on Amazon.com
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars >> A New Perspective on the "Special Relationship" << 31 July 2014
By Reviewer 3000 - Published on Amazon.com
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.

Both also shared similar experience that strengthened their relationship. After Reagan’s assassination attempt, Margaret phoned to see how the president was recovering and wrote to him about looking forward to “strengthening their relations” even more once he recovered. A few years later, a similar threat reached Thatcher. A car bomb, probably intended to kill the entire cabinet, nearly killed Thatcher as well. As before, the president returned the notion of continuing their relationship. Although fictitious, their was general concern and respect that they both shared for each other. Ardous argues that it is with foreign policies that the relationship was most tested.

In April of 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and assumed control. This territory belonged to the British and was governed by a democratic constitution. Britain, eager to go to war over the territory, expected American support on the issue. Yet, America’s relationship with Argentina caused hesitation in taking sides with Britain. After the sinking of two ships, Thatcher secured a military force to take back the Falklands. The situation, controversial in London as well as Washington, later proved to strengthen Thatcher’s ability as Prime Minister. Although the Falklands seemed unimportant to America, even Reagan had asked Thatcher why they desired to keep them, it was a matter of British pride in keeping the cold islands a world away.

After the Falkland crisis, another one arose. In Grenada, a Cuban force seized the government and endangered American interests. Reagan approved an immediate US military intervention, not wanting to wait for advice from Thatcher. Thatcher was deeply hurt by his initial request for advice then sudden will to act without it. Grenada was a success, overthrowing the military coup and installing a democratic governor a few months after the intervention. US-UK relations suffered during the Grenada situation and continued to suffer as Britain made the decision to begin looking to the East for support in foreign policy. To Thatcher, relying on the West after Grenada seemed too risky.

Aldous states that both Thatcher and Reagan were deeply impressed with Gorbachev and considered him a very capable leader to help bring an end to the Cold War. After nearly forty years of nuclear tensions, SDI proved to be the strength behind securing a reduction in nuclear arms that would later, after Reagan’s presidency, see greater limits on nuclear weapons. Aldous argues that although there was personal affection at times between the two world leaders, the political bond and Churchillian relationship that the media cultivated was only an image purposely created. They disagreed on more than they agreed yet each knew that they could rely on the other. Aldous argues that the Libyan strike carried out by the US with Britain’s permission to leave form their air base, after having been rejected by what the US thought to be a newfound relationship with France. In the end, Britain pulled through and could be counted on in times of crisis.
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