One of the most controversial British heads of state since King Charles I, Margaret Thatcher was 64 when she became Prime Minister, and had been in Parliament for twenty years. She rapidly became known for the strength of her convictions – which unfortunately included more than a few she’d developed after drinking the free market kool aid.
Margaret Thatcher would serve as Prime Minister until 1990, presiding over the privatisation of many government services and Britain’s successful prosecution of the Falklands War in 1982. Few world leaders have ever been as hated by the left, or as good at unintentionally recruiting for it.
Nat Tuner was a black slave in Virginia who believed he was divinely inspired to lead his people to freedom. The rebellion he led in 1831 is the single largest slave rebellion in the history of the United States of America, with a death toll of at least 160 people (100 of them black, including Turner himself, 60 of them white).
The rebellion was a bloody and vengeful affair on both sides, but in the end, Turner’s slaves – for the most part lacking horses and firearms – had little chance against the white establishment. Many of them were killed in the fighting, and the few surviving ringleaders were tried and hung – by people who believed they were divinely inspired to deny them their freedom.
Nelson Mandela became one of the leaders of the African National Congress in 1961, and spent the next few months constantly on the move, hiding out from the South African police as he led a bombing campaign as part of the anti-apartheid movement.
In 1962, he and nine other leaders of the ANC were captured and brought to trial for their actions against the state. Convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment on charges of treason, he was later tried again on separate charges two years later in what is now called the Rivonia Trial. Here, on June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment at Robben Island, where he would spend the next 18 years (of a total of 27 years he served).
Here, he became something of a martyr to his cause, and a cause celebre in other nations. His dignity and oratorical talent – along with his longevity and unimpeachable political credentials – made him the default leader of the ANC and his freedom became inextricable from the larger issues of political and racial freedom in South Africa. He was eventually pardoned and released in 1990, and later became President of South Africa in the post-apartheid era.