The Thatcher years were not peaceful years. Her first term was characterised by?fighting?on?all?fronts: facing down hunger strikes, riots in our inner-cities, and ending in war with Argentina.

For her 1979 election victory, Saatchi & Saatchi had created a poster with a mocked-up dole queue, under the slogan "Labour Isn't Working" - but now unemployment spiralled out of?all?control.

Throughout this turbulence, her perceived strength was her greatest weapon. It led to her being elected for a record three terms, as the longest-serving prime minister of the 20th Century.

The nickname Iron Lady, which she came to love, was given to her by a Soviet newspaper.

It was meant as an insult. "They could not have done me a greater favour," she said. Thatcher was a conviction politician - and the longer she ruled, the more she hardened.

She saw her mandate in No10 as reversing the country's economic decline and cutting the role of the state in both the economy and in people's lives.

The essence of Thatcherism was that both industry and individuals would survive by their own efforts.

Her right-to-buy scheme for council tenants was that in a nutshell - and could have been a revolution had the money actually gone back into social housing.

Thatcher had a hugely lucky boost to her economic strategies when North Sea oil came?on?flow in 1980.

But by increasing interest rates and putting up VAT, she fuelled inflation, which was soon running at a massive 20百分比. Businesses, particularly those in the manufacturing sector, collapsed.

Unemployment soared to double what it had been under Labour - eventually topping three million. By 1982, it was the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But she stuck doggedly to her monetary policies. At the Tory party conference in 1980 she delivered her famous speech: "You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning." The dramatic pause in the middle was pure theatre and the delegates leapt to their feet.

That speech set down a marker: whatever else was wrong, Margaret Thatcher knew how to appeal to the Tory heartlands.

On?television she lacked confidence and had to be taught not to hector Wilson and Healey could run rings around her. But in?front?of the faithful, she was masterly.

In reality the country was descending into near chaos. There was bitter opposition to her anti-union legislation and Thatcher's radical plans to privatise nationalised industries.

Across the Irish Sea, she faced still fiercer battles. In 1980 and 1981, the Provisional IRA and INLA carried out hunger strikes in the Maze Prison demanding prisoners be given back their political status. Bobby Sands and nine others died and violence escalated.

In 1982, Sinn Fein's Danny Morrison described Thatcher as "the biggest bastard we have ever known".

But the Iranian Embassy siege of 1980 - when she ordered the SAS to storm in, killing five terrorists - was one of her finest hours. The kind of strong leadership at which she excelled. In March 1981, the Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Howe, shocked the Commons with a Budget that raised taxes and cut spending in the middle of deep recession.

Within a month, Brixton was?on?fire. Riots raged across Toxteth and Southall. Caused by racist policing and triggered by deprivation, they were a symptom of how powerless ordinary people felt against the Iron Lady in power.

The first day of the Brixton riots, 10th July 1981
London's burning: The first day of riots in July 1981

Thatcher was genuinely shocked by the devastation. Ever the grocer's daughter, when she surveyed the damage she let out a cry of, "Oh, those poor shopkeepers." The early summer riots ended in July with the helpfully diverting side show of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

That same month, Thatcher was confronted by a Cabinet mutiny of the "wets" led by Michael Heseltine. In September she responded with a brutal reshuffle, sacking disloyal ministers and bringing in her supporters, Nigel Lawson, Cecil Parkinson and Norman Tebbit.

By 1982, Thatcher was at rock bottom in opinion polls.

Only a belligerent Argentinian dictator, General Galtieri could save her.

The Falklands War sealed her image as the Iron Lady but also made her into "Maggie", the popular figurehead of a defiant nation.

Britain won the war for that tiny clutch of islands, thanks to the courage of our forces and the incompetence of the enemy.

British Royal Navy frigate HMS Antelope explodes in the bay of San Carlos off East Falkland during the Falklands War
Exploding tensions: HMS Antelop is hit in the bay of San Carlos off East Falkland during the conflict

Still she was widely criticised, even at home, for the sinking of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano as it steamed away from the agreed combat zone.

In that moment, 323 sailors perished, more than the total 255 British losses in the whole war.

Bolstered by the Falklands, Thatcher won the election of 1983 with a majority of 144, even with three million people still?on?the dole.

Only a sex scandal marred her triumph. Her chosen heir apparent, Cecil Parkinson, was forced to choose between his pregnant lover, Sara Keays, and his wife. Thatcher told him to stick with his wife and he did. But he had lost his power base.

Thatcher won her third term in June 1987 by 102 seats, largely because the breakaway SDP had weakened the Labour Party, and continued to move inexorably to her longterm goal of a Britain without welfare.

Soon after her victory, she said: "There is no such thing as society. People must look to themselves." She would later dispute the remark, yet society would never feel the same again.

Now read about her effect on Britain's economy: How she bashed miners and the unions but backed yuppies

Or look back on her journey to the top: How she went from a Grantham grocer's shop to Prime Minister