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A leader at war : Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands crisis of 1982

Domenico Maria Bruni
p. 135-157


The victory in the Falklands War was the triumph of Margaret Thatcher. While the Argentine invasion of the islands was the fruit of a lack of leadership in managing the Falklands issue, the positive resolution of the crisis owed much to Thatcher’s ability to react rapidly to the initial shock, to achieve and maintain firm control of the political handling of the crisis, to clearly identify objectives, and to pursue them with a persistence that never lost contact with diplomatic prudence. The episode, which could have caused her political death, ended up giving her unassailable force, for many years. The first part of this essay analyses the major problems which the outburst of the crisis created to Mrs Thatcher and defines her strategy for resolving it. The second part goes deeper into the management of the crisis by Mrs Thatcher, by highlighting her swiftness of response and clarity of intentions, her elaboration of a positive values system, her capacities of managing international relations, and, last but not least, her luck. The last paragraph analyses the consequences of the war both on the representation of Margaret Thatcher leadership and on the British political landscape as a whole.

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Ce document sera publié en ligne en texte intégral en septembre 2018.


The Crisis
Critical attacks against Thatcher’s government
Toward what goal, and by what means ?
Mrs. Thatcher’s Response
Swiftness of Response, and Clarity of Intentions
The Elaboration of a Positive Values System
Capacities of Managing International Relations
Results of the Victory

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In their general aspects, the Anglo-Argentine dispute over the possession of the Falkland Islands, the immediate causes of the 1982 armed conflict, and the responsibilities of Margaret Thatcher and her government have been well-known topics for quite some time. The declassification of documents from the 1970s and 80s has enabled scholars to reconsider these matters, providing highly useful details that have enriched the comprehensive picture. This same process now permits sharpening the focus on the role of the 1982 war in the construction of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, giving order to the array of data found in the vast personal memorial archive of the protagonists and witnesses of the events in question. The following pages will analyse how Margaret Thatcher confronted the crisis during the spring of 1982, how this experience came to characterise her image as a leader, and with what particular consequences.

The Crisis

The Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands created two ...

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Référence papier

Domenico Maria Bruni, « A leader at war : Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands crisis of 1982 », Observatoire de la société britannique, 20 | 2018, 135-157.

Référence électronique

Domenico Maria Bruni, « A leader at war : Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands crisis of 1982 », Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 20 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2018, consulté le 15 août 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/osb.2007

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Domenico Maria Bruni

Research fellow à la School of Government, International Center on Democracy and Democratization, Rome

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Droits d’auteur

Observatoire de la société britannique

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