Our goal with the “Great Figures of the 20th Century” Weekend Seminars series will be to examine the worldviews and leadership styles of four key individuals – Churchill, Reagan, Thatcher, and Ben-Gurion – in order to surface underlying questions about statesmanship. We will ask questions such as: What is statesmanship? How does one recognize it? And if one can, in fact, speak of statesmanship, what are (or should be) its fundamental constituent components?

These seminars are not intended to be mere biographical surveys of great lives well lived. Our goal, ideally, will be to spend some time covering the basic narratives of what transpired during each figure’s career, but then to engage in extended, thoughtful seminar-style discussion of the issues that these events and narratives raise, exploring their unfolding in our past and reflecting on their implications for our future. We will hope not to simply learn about our figures, but from them.

Photos courtesy Margaret Thatcher Foundation

Daniel Johnson on the Left & the Right


Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson is an author, journalist, and founding editor of Standpoint, a monthly British cultural and political magazine. He is the author of White King and Red Queen: How the Cold War was Fought on the Chessboard.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

In this session, we shall look at how Mrs. Thatcher defied the British establishment to turn round the UK economy, fought and won the Falklands War against the Argentine dictatorship, pioneered privatization, survived attempted assassination at the hands of Irish Republican terrorists, and fought a year-long miners’ strike led by far-Left extremists bent on destroying her government. We will simulate British and American cabinet discussions on the Falklands War, rehearse key economic debates, recreate the strategy to defeat union power, and re-enact the aftermath of the Brighton bomb.




In this session, we return to the darkest days of the Cold War, when Mrs. Thatcher defied the orthodoxies of détente to challenge Soviet aggression and strengthen NATO. We will imagine ourselves in her shoes, facing Gorbachev for the first time and finding common ground without compromising the defense of the West. We shall trace the evolution of her close but complex relationship with Reagan, including the crises over Grenada, the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) and the Reykjavik summit, concluding with her response to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Gulf War.




In this session we shall trace Mrs. Thatcher’s policy towards her European partners and re-enact the debates within Parliament, Cabinet and her own Conservative party. Her triumphs over the budget rebate and the single market were followed by growing frustration over the direction taken by the Europe and a series of conflicts with her colleagues, culminating in her decision to set out an alternative vision and a series of attempts to depose her. We shall recreate the tragic events that led to her fall, despite her unique achievement of three successive victories in general elections, and discuss the relevance of her ideas for the present existential challenges facing Europe.



For our final session, we shall consider the sources of Mrs. Thatcher’s leadership, grounded in moral principles and biblical values, and ask how statesmanship in our day can avoid relativism and cynicism. We will discuss the Thatcherite legacy, both in policy and in style, while evoking and analyzing the charisma that enabled the Iron Lady to leave her mark on posterity long after most leaders are forgotten.



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