Back to the future:

1979 and 1989 are key years in recent history that book-end a fascinating decade of change. Through a series of essays, films, and other resources, this website takes you back … to the 1980s.




We have chosen to look back at the 1980s through six broad themes.

  • International relations

    A world in conflict, a terrifying arms race, high-stakes diplomacy, and change in Europe.

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  • UK politics

    The decade of Thatcher's Conservative government, an opposition in flux and the foundation of the Social Democratic Party.

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  • Economics & employment

    Neoliberalism, privatisation, strikes, protests and closures. Winners and losers in a world of change.

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  • Science & technology

    The rise of the computers, a gadget society, and a hole in the ozone layer.

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  • Society

    Was it a time of diversity, or a decade of estrangement? What did people campaign for and how did society change in the 1980s?

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  • Popular culture

    Popular culture: Synth pop, denim crazes, and keeping fit. And a frustrating strange cube to play with.

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Watch & listen

Watch & listen

As well as reading about the 1980s, you can see what the decade looked like too. Tune in to a series of short films from our Moving Image Archive for an authentic window into the decade.



The Library has well over 2.5 million collection items that we received in the 1980s, and a vast quantity of books, magazines, and articles that we have received since then that analyse this fascinating decade. Find out what is available on this site and at the Library.

Resources list