Back to the future: 1979-1989


Let's explore the 1980s through six themes: international relations, UK politics, economics and employment, science and technology, society and popular culture.


At each theme you will find a series of essays, some short and some long.

  • International relations

    Wars and conflicts, rising global tensions, the struggle for power, and the protests against communism.

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  • UK politics

    The highs and lows of governance in the 1980s including the elections, protests and party shifts which shaped the decade.

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  • Economics & employment

    A decade of boom and bust, with privatisation and neoliberalism intertwined with industrial decline and a stock market crash.

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  • Science & technology

    Revolutionary electronics, the challenge to control newly emerging diseases and a space tragedy.

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  • Society

    Historic campaigns which changed our thinking, the unforgettable party scene, and problems of unemployment, homelessness and drug abuse.

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  • Popular culture

    The sports we enjoyed, the clothes we wore, what we listened to, watched and read. The leisure pursuits of a decade driven by consumerism.

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All the essays

Our contributors

Most of the essays are written by staff based on items in the Library collections, and their personal memories of the decade. Guest writers who were living witnesses to events and changes in the 1980s have written essays too.

List of contributors