Taking over as PM
Thatcher took over from the Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan. Her first two years in office were not easy – unemployment was very high, but the economy gradually showed improvement.
She brought more of her supporters into the Cabinet, and added to her reputation by leading the country to war against Argentina in the Falkland Islands.
The Conservatives went on to win the 1983 election by an overwhelming majority, helped by a divided opposition.
Her government followed a radical programme of privatisation and deregulation, reform of the trade unions, tax cuts and the introduction of market mechanisms into health and education. The aim was to reduce the role of government and increase individual self-reliance.
She also became a familiar figure internationally, creating a famous friendship with US President Reagan and gaining the praise of Soviet leader Gorbachev.
One great difficulty during her time in office was the issue of Europe. Her long-serving Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe resigned in November 1990 in protest at her attitude to Europe. His resignation speech brought about events which were to lead to her exit from 10 Downing Street later that month.