Thatcher cuts a dash in world leaders' list

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The Independent Online
MARGARET Thatcher cut a mightier figure in the 20th century than Stalin, Mussolini or De Gaulle, according to a new American poll.

Time magazine's list of the most important 20 leaders and revolutionaries includes Ronald Reagan but not Trotsky, Eleanor Roosevelt but not Golda Meir.

In fact, Americans feature heavily on the list, which will be followed in the next two years by selections of "entertainers and artists", "builders and titans", "scientists and healers" and "heroes and inspirations". The series will culminate with the announcement of a "Person of the Century".

The 6 million Internet users who have so far voted in the on-line poll rated the American birth control campaigner Margaret Sanger above Simone de Beauvoir, Indira Ghandi and Emmeline Pankhurst. Nor did they place Stalin, Mussolini or De Gaulle among their top 20 "leaders and revolutionaries".

There are two Britons on the list: Baroness Thatcher and Winston Churchill. There are, however, six Americans. In addition to Reagan, Sanger and Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt both made it into the top 20 along with Martin Luther King.

Not all those who appear are all-American heroes, though. Adolf Hitler makes the top 20, as does Ho Chi Minh, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Mao Tse- tung and Lenin.

David Ben-Gurion, Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa are also on the list, while some other figures are chosen for different reasons. Pope John Paul II is described as "the most tireless moral voice of a secular age", while the unknown rebel who stood before the advancing tanks in Tianamen Square on 5 June 1989 is honoured as "a lone Chinese hero [who] revived the world's image of courage."

Lady Thatcher is celebrated as a "champion of free minds and markets," who "helped topple the welfare state and make the world safer for capitalism".

"She was the catalyst who set in motion a series of interconnected events that gave a revolutionary twist to the century's last two decades," the British historian and political commentator Paul Johnson writes in a tribute to her.

Winston Churchill, who won Time's "Man of the Half-Century" title in 1949, is reviewed by the military historian John Keegan. He is praised for having "stood alone against fascism and renewed the world's faith in the superiority of democracy".

The author Salman Rushdie profiles Gandhi, leader of Indian independence struggle. "He, and he alone, was responsible for the transformation of the demand for independence into a nationwide mass movement that mobilised every class of society against the imperialist," he writes.

Joshua Cooper Ramo, the Time senior editor who edited the issue, writes: "While recent history was written at the intersection of ideologies - communism versus capitalism, fascism versus democracy - the end of the Cold War has produced a collection of other, more subtle changes." The coming trends are globalisation, tribalism, fundamentalism and environmentalism, he predicts.