Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


Reader 1

Lily Geismer

Reader 2

Ilai Saltzman

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Rights Information

© 2015 Benjamin F. Waldman


Early in her Prime Ministership, Margaret Thatcher fought an unlikely diversionary war far from home for the ownership of the Falkland Islands. The Islands lie off of Argentina’s coast about 8,000 miles from London, but have been subject to Britain’s rule since 1836. In April 1982, hoping to distract from domestic political and economic turmoil, Argentina’s military dictatorship ordered a surprise invasion of the Islands. Thatcher, Britain’s first female Prime Minister, responded in full force. By early May, a British fleet reached the Islands. By June, despite American efforts to stop a war between its allies, Britain launched an assault on the Islands and took them back by force. Thatcher’s victory propelled her to immense popularity in late-1982 and 1983, and the Argentine dictatorship’s defeat gave life to a people’s revolt that quickly ended the regime and decades of military leadership.

This thesis examines Thatcher’s leadership in April 1982, before Britain launched its retaliatory invasion of the Islands. It seeks to answer how Thatcher managed to make the war possible and popular in three key arenas: with her own cabinet and government, with the United States and the United Nations, and ultimately with the British public. This study operates on the idea that the war served as an intentional diversion for Thatcher, who had struggled domestically as Prime Minister up until the Falklands Crisis. Utilizing newly released archival documents from the Thatcher government, this study shows the Prime Minister never had any interest in avoiding war, undermining any potential for peace as it emerged.


  • 2015 CMC Best Thesis Award – History