So let's start with Joshua Sherman. Joshua was a mentor to me when I was at Middlebury College going through some pretty difficult times. He was intellectually as sharp as a knife, but had compassion for people and valued people for what they were, taking a lively interest in the world around him. One of the things that I remember he and his partner did within the community was to have an annual party ( - a barbeque as I recall), inviting everyone from the neighborhood and also all their friends. In other words, they valued the small Vermont community they came from and took a definite interest in the people that were part of this community.
Joshua was the embodiment of the renaissance man. He was interested in just about everything and everyone and was a writer ( - good example of his work is here and a book review from the NYT here), a lawyer, a musician, an historian, a financier, a teacher and both a great talker and a good listener. His background was unique - the son of a Jewish and British parents who was born in British Palestine (which is now Israel) but won a scholarship to be educated in history at Oxford, and then went into investment banking in the City of London. Having such a cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary background allowed him to appreciate that people can have different perspectives on things, and can approach things differently. As an illustration of this, one of the things he showed me was that sometimes to understand other people you have to imagine how it must feel to be in their shoes. Obviously in terms of negotiations and also climbing the corporate (or in this case educational) ladder, such insights can be extremely valuable.
Perhaps one of the things that Joshua will likely be best remembered for is his book "Mandate Days: British Lives in Palestine, 1918-1948." In this book Joshua documented the lives of the British occupiers of Palestine during the first part of the last century. The book is fascinating, and a review of it is available here.
In more recent years our communications became more sporadic, but Joshua was an optimistic soul, and encouraged me to try and do all I could to further my own research and career, as well as continue my musical diversions. I shall miss him.
To link with the other figure that passed this week, I remember in one conversation that Joshua and I had, that the subject matter turned to Thatcherism and the Thatcherites. Joshua simply frowned and said "but my dear Patrick, these people were simply delusional". On one level I had to agree, but although I loathed the woman on a personal level ( - where did that plummy accent come from?), on other levels Thatcher did change everything in the UK.
I remember growing up in the UK when Trade Unions were incredibly strong, particularly in the north of the UK where I am originally from. When we went through the "winter of discontent" after the period of "prices and incomes controls" which limited the amounts that prices and incomes could rise as the form of a "social pact" between the government and the Trade Unions broke down, it was clear that something had to change. Thatcher, in my view, happened to be in the right place at the right time, because when you look her career, she certainly did not excel in any of her previous cabinet posts. No, a tipping point had come, where it was recognized that change had to come, and so she achieved an overwhelming electoral victory in 1979.
Everyone I knew voted for her, just simply because the alternative was just too horrible to contemplate.
My own relationship with Mrs. Thatcher was ambivalent to say the least. I admired her honesty as a politician. One has to remember that the UK had just been through an era where governments just didn't seem to be able to execute policy properly, and there was no real direction in terms of ideology - it was literally made up as they went along. I think she was a disaster economically in the early years, but her government was rescued by an upturn in the global economy in the mid-1980s, and then the focus started shifting the Europe, where the single market and single currency were being formulated. The UK could have been a much more central figure in these initiatives, but Thatcher's clear ideological division with nearly all other European nations meant that the country was usually not in sync with what was happening over on the continent. The divisions within Thatcher's own party in relation to Europe was the real reason that she was eventually deposed.
The industrial North, Scotland and south Wales suffered tremendously under Thatcher's policies, but because they were Labour strongholds, she really didn't have to worry about this. It led to a deeply divided country, with the South being rich and prosperous, and the north and industrial regions turning into wastelands in many places. Her policies with regard to London were also spiteful. The Mayor of London at the time, Ken Livingstone, happened to be from the Labour party, and with the setup of Boroughs in London, there was little chance that the Mayor change hands to the Conservatives, so she simply abolished the position and a whole layer of government. For her, compromise was weakness.
Those years were a mess in London, with little coordination of transport services, warring borough councils and massive cuts to Social services. The last straw was the poll tax which her government proposed for payment of local and municipal taxes. She advocated a per head charge which did not relate to the value of property or income. Riots ensued.