Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 257–267 | Cite as

Ronald Reagan: Conviction politics and the transatlantic relationship

  • Alison R. HolmesEmail author


This article argues that any ‘nomination’ of a president for Transatlantica, interpreted here as being a ‘territory’ primarily occupied by the United States and the United Kingdom, should have three elements. The first is an acceptance by the ‘governed’ of the said ‘president’, with the former in this case being the leadership of the UK. The second is a unity of purpose founded on a common world view and evidenced at all levels, from the identification of enemies abroad to the proffered solutions to practical issues at home. The third is a consistency of action and a resiliency of trust in the face of differences in opinion or policy. Margaret Thatcher, while prime minister, accepted Ronald Reagan’s leadership, despite the fact she was arguably the more experienced international politician. The two shared a form of ‘conviction politics’ that drove not only their foreign policies, but also their domestic ones, throughout their extended and shared tenure. When disagreements inevitably arose between them, they were able relatively quickly to reestablish a strong working relationship, based upon their close personal partnership. This article concludes therefore that Ronald Reagan certainly satisfied the criteria of president of Transatlantica.


Ronald Reagan Margaret Thatcher conviction politics consensus politics politics of reconstruction special relationship ‘exceptional’ politics 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Ronald Reagan, ‘Margaret Thatcher and the Revival of the West: A Great Stateswoman’, National Review, 19 May 1989.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Nicholas Wapshott, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage (New York: Sentinel, 2007).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For the most recent edited volume on special relationships, including that between the United States and the United Kingdom, see John Dumbrell and Axel R. Schäfer, eds., America’s ‘Special Relationships’: Foreign and Domestic Aspects of the Politics of Alliance (London: Routledge, 2009).Google Scholar
  4. 3a.
    For the Anglo-American relationship since the end of the Second World War, see John Dumbrell, A Special Relationship: Anglo-American Relations from the Cold War to Iraq (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 3b.
    For the long history of the bilateral relationship, see Kathleen Burk, Old World, New World: The Story of Britain and America (London: Little, Brown, 2007).Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Alex Danchev, ‘On Specialness’, International Affairs 72, no. 4 (1996): 737–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 5.
    Peter Jones, America and the British Labour Party: The ‘Special Relationship’ at Work (London: I.B. Tauris, 1997), 2.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Andrew Adonis and Tim Hames, eds., A Conservative Revolution?: The Thatcher - Reagan Decade in Perspective (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), 116.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Lawrence Freedman, ‘Thatcherism and Defence’, in The Thatcher Effect: A Decade of Change, ed. Dennis Kavanagh and Anthony Seldon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    Paul Sharp, Thatcher’s Diplomacy: The Revival of British Foreign Policy (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 9.
    Stephen Haseler, Sidekick - Bulldog to Lapdog: British Global Strategy from Churchill to Blair (London: Forum, 2007).Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    Margaret G. Hermann and Joe D. Hagan, ‘International Decision Making: Leadership Matters’, Foreign Policy, special edition: Frontier of Knowledge, no. 110 (1998), 124–37Google Scholar
  13. 10a.
    Stanley Hoffmann, ‘The Case for Leadership’, Foreign Policy, no. 81 (1990-1991), 20–38.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Richard E. Neustadt, Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership from FDR to Carter (New York: Macmillan, 1986).Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    Peter Wallison, Ronald Reagan: The Power of Conviction and the Success of his Presidency (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2003), 9.Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    Neustadt, Presidential Power, 10.Google Scholar
  17. 14.
    Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to George Bush (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1993), 5–7.Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    Adonis and Hames, A Conservative Revolution?, 239.Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    Patricia Lee Sykes, Presidents and Prime Ministers: Conviction Politics in the Anglo-American Tradition (Lawrence: Kansas University Press, 2000), 300, 332.Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    Adonis and Hames, A Conservative Revolution?, 2.Google Scholar
  21. 18.
  22. 19.
  23. 20.
    Edward M. Yager and Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey, ‘Measuring Rhetorical Leadership: A Textual Analysis of Margaret Thatcher’s and Ronald Reagan’s Speeches’ (paper presented to the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, 30 August - 2 September 2007) 3.Google Scholar
  24. 21.
    Hugo Young, The Iron Lady: A Biography of Margaret Thatcher (New York: Noonday Press, 1989), 251.Google Scholar
  25. 22.
    Dennis Kavanagh, The Reordering of British Politics: Politics after Thatcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 27.Google Scholar
  26. 23.
    Ibid., 135. This term is also used by Peter Riddell, ‘Ideology in Practice’, in A Conservative Revolution?: The Thatcher-Reagan Decade in Perspective, ed. Andrew Adonis and Tim Hames, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  27. 24.
    Ibid., 32.Google Scholar
  28. 25.
    Richard Reeves, ‘We Are Witnessing the Death of the Political Personality’, New Statesman, 27 October 2003, 27–28.Google Scholar
  29. 26.
    Riddell, ‘Ideology in Practice’, 33.Google Scholar
  30. 27.
    Ivor Crewe, ‘Values: The Crusade that Failed’, in The Thatcher Effect: A Decade of Change, ed. Dennis Kavanagh and Anthony Seldon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 239–50, cite at p. 240.Google Scholar
  31. 28.
    Kavanagh, Reordering of British Politics, 135.Google Scholar
  32. 29.
    Crewe, ‘Values’, 240.Google Scholar
  33. 30.
    Riddell, ‘Ideology in Practice’, 32.Google Scholar
  34. 31.
    Reeves, ‘We are Witnessing’, 28.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA

Personalised recommendations