Reassessing the 1970s, an evening event at the British Academy, 23 September 2010

HR Pemberton, L. Black

Research output: Other contribution

Abstract

This public event at the British Academy was informed by the organisers's identification of the 1970s as a watershed in post-war British history and by the question why does that decade continue to resonate so strongly in contemporary British politics, and in debates about economic, social and cultural change? An understanding of what happened in the 1970s is essential to understanding Britain as it developed in the 1980s and 1990s and how it continues to develop today. Thirty years on from the ‘winter of discontent’ and the election of Margaret Thatcher, and with the official papers virtually fully open, the time has come for contemporary historians to begin to reassess the 1970s and the decade’s place in post-war history as a whole. This event begins with a paper from Lawrence Black and Hugh Pemberton ('Reassessing the seventies: the benighted decade') which makes a strong case for a reappraisal of the decade, arguing that before we can reconstruct events in these years we must first understand how they have been constructed by both Left and Right) A number of questions are raised about this crucial decade: 1. What was the nature of the ‘crisis’ that Britain faced in the 1970s? Was it actually as bad as it has been (and was at the time) painted? 2. Why did the decade see such a polarization of British politics and such social and cultural discord? 3. Did the decade mark the ‘end of Keynesian social democracy’ in Britain’ and was ‘the long march of labour halted’? 4. Why did the 1970s continue to resonate to the extent that it did in debates about British politics, and in debates about economic, social and cultural change? 5. How significant was the decade in the broad sweep of postwar British history? Was there a ‘sea-change’ in social, cultural, and political values? A number of key issues for contemporary historians are raised in the paper: the problem of periodisation, the politicisation of memory, and the fact that economics lies at the heart of so many developments in the 1970s A panel consisting of Professors Jim Tomlinson, Frank Mort, and Pat Thane then discuss the questions and issues raised. A plenary discussion discussion then took place.
Translated title of the contributionReassessing the 1970s, an evening event at the British Academy, 23 September 2010
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2009

Bibliographical note

Conference Organiser: H. Pemberton and L. Black
Name and Venue of Event: British Academy, London

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