Margaret Thatcher met with the then paramount leader of the People’s Republic, Deng Xiaoping, in late September 1982, when she is infamously said to have “lost Hong Kong” to China. Perhaps the British prime minister was bound for failure, having described China as a “rather unpleasant place governed by rather unpleasant people” when she first visited, in 1977. In 1989, the Iron Lady gave a powerful anti-smoking speech aimed at convincing adolescents to kick the habit. In 1992, two years after she left office, Thatcher took on a lucrative consultancy role with tobacco firm Philip Morris …

Now a multinational tobacco behemoth, encompassing brands such as Marlboro and L&M, Philip Morris started out as a one- man band. Bernard Morris, a German migrant, opened a tobacco shop on London’s Bond Street in 1847, when his son, Philip, was 12 years old. Seven years later, the Morris family began to make their own cigarettes and, by 1870, the shop was thriving. Today, Old Bond Street is a fashionable retail destination where, within just a few steps, one can buy cigarettes, designer clothes and jewellery from a store co-founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany … 

The Connecticut-born businessman and a school friend, John Young, opened the store that would become the first Tiffany & Co, in New York in 1837. Selling stationery and knick-knacks, it also stocked the Catalogue of Useful and Fancy Articles (the United States’ first mail order catalogue), which sold everything from horsewhips to French sugar plums. Tiffany took full control in 1853 and the shop shifted its focus to fine jewellery. Among his many clients was a future president. In 1904, a Tiffany’s diamond engagement ring was bought by one Franklin Delano Roosevelt …

In 1932, some 27 years after he married Eleanor, FDR was elected to the US presidency, his campaign theme Happy Days are Here Again having struck a chord with a population mired in the Great Depression. It is said that Roosevelt hailed from the Van Rosevelts of Oud-Vossemeer, a family of Dutch nobility who arrived in New York in the mid-17th century, when it was New Amsterdam. The descendants of Dutch migrants have certainly made their mark on the US, few more so than Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen … “The Boss”, who turned 65 on Tuesday, was born in 1949 in New Jersey to a father of Dutch and Irish lineage, and an Italian-American mother who earned the family’s living, working as a legal secretary. Inspired by Elvis Presley, the 13-year-old Bruce persuaded his mother to buy him an US$18 guitar. Springsteen has since earned a reputation for weaving a political thread into his anthemic hits. Last year, during his debut performance in Chile, he paid homage to Victor Jara, the artist and activist who was tortured and murdered under the repressive regime of Augusto Pinochet …

The Chilean dictator seized power in 1973, on what has been referred to as “the other September 11”. When he died, in 2006, aged 91, he had numerous criminal charges pending for human rights abuses. In 1998, Pinochet was arrested in Britain on a warrant from Spain, but he had one important ally in Europe. Calling for his release was one who never shied away from controversy, Margaret Thatcher.