If you think the world is a mess now, that just means you weren’t around in the 1970s.
In Britain, where I grew up, the low point was known as “the winter of discontent,” a line borrowed from Shakespeare’s Richard III.
The inflation rate in 1975 was 27 percent. The trains were always late. The payphones were always broken. Nothing worked.
Worst of all were the recurrent strikes. Strikes by coal miners. Strikes by dockers. Strikes by printers. Strikes by refuse collectors. Strikes even by gravediggers.
It felt as if there was no way back. And then came Margaret Thatcher.
Between May 1979, when she entered 10 Downing Street as prime minister, and November 1990, when she stepped down, she changed everything.
Born on October 13, 1925, she was an improbable savior. Nothing in her middle-class childhood suggested the future ahead of her. A diligent student, she got into Oxford as a chemistry major. She worked for a small plastics company after leaving college but was rejected for a position at the British chemical giant ICI because, as the personnel report stated, “This woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated.”
She needed all three of those attributes when she entered the world of politics as a Conservative candidate in 1950. After several failures, she finally entered Parliament in 1959. For the next two decades, she steadily worked her way up through the party ranks.