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Doodler-in-chief: Reagan’s Summit Sketches

March 17, 2012 by staff 

Doodler-in-chief: Reagan’s Summit Sketches, Margaret Thatcher was so fascinated by U.S. President Ronald Reagan that she snatched and kept a page of his doodles from a G7 summit, the former British prime minister’s newly released papers reveal.

The page of ink drawings is among personal papers from 1981 released Saturday by the Thatcher archive at Cambridge University.

Reagan left the piece of paper sitting on a table at the meeting near Ottawa, Canada, in July 1981. It is adorned with a scribbled eye, a man’s muscular torso and several heads, including one that looks like a self portrait.

“She told me it was fascinating to see it, and she just grabbed them,” said historian Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. “He just left it on his desk. She snaffled it up, put it in her papers, brought it back to Downing Street and kept it in her flat.”

Cary Cooper, a psychologist at Lancaster University in northern England, said Thatcher’s souvenir provided an insight into the president’s state of mind during the summit – he was bored.

“Here’s a body, there’s a head separate from the body,” Cooper said. “Is he so unenamored with what’s going on that he’s having an out-of-body experience?

“The eye means I’m watching what’s going on, I’m observing, but I’m not altogether there.”

The documents confirm the immediate warmth between the two conservative leaders, who forged a strong anti-communist alliance during the 1980s. But they also reveal a lesser-known story – the lengths the U.S. administration went to distance itself from Thatcher’s then-unpopular government, which was facing a recession, rising unemployment and inner-city riots.

Thatcher, Britain’s prime minister between 1979 and 1990, was the first foreign leader invited to Washington by Reagan for a state visit. The papers reveal she was briefed extensively ahead of the February 1981 trip on how to rebut criticisms coming out of the U.S. administration.

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