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Britain in the 1970swhat happened?
Once upon a time, there was a country.
It had started out as loose association of battling nation-states, but by the middle ages it had become
a kingdom. Some of its monarchs names are still familiar to every well-educated person, their stories
still told in classrooms around the world.
After a few hundred years, a civil war and a beheading, it was decided that the kings council should
be rearranged, and there should be elections. Thus began one of the oldest Parliamentary
democracies in the world. The kingdom became the launching point for two more revolutions: the
agricultural revolution, and then the industrial revolution.
Before long the kingdom gave in to temptation, and used its industrial might to rule the seas. It
became an Empire which spanned the globe. Mighty trading fleets made it the center of global
commerce. Its ancient institutions of learning made it a center of culture and science. The world
seemed to revolve around its capital city, and every map was marked accordingly.
Empires never last, though. Soon young upstart nations broke away from the Empire and began to
grow faster than their parent. The center of global economic power started to shift. Older nations
which had been colonized fought for their freedom, and sometimes won.
So it was that the Kingdom which had become an Empire, became a Country. Not a perfect country by
any means; but one with a strong tradition of freedom and liberty, plentiful energy supplies, and a
troubled but still active manufacturing industry. Then the 1970s happened
When England was a kingdom, we had a king. When we were an empire, we had an emperor. Now
were a country and we have Margaret Thatcher. Kenny Everett, shortly before being fired from
BBC Radio.
Theres a conventional wisdom about Britain in the 1970s, that it was all doom and misery and
unemployment. Youll see Conservatives today still referring to the decade as if it was some sort of
nightmare that will inevitably be repeated unless they are put back in power; some sort of Clockwork
Orange dystopia that they alone can prevent.
That wasnt how I remembered those years, though. My memories seemed to follow a very different
narrative. Of course, I barely remembered the early 70s, being so young at the time. I also didnt really
have any interest in politics until my time at university. So I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be
mis-remembering everything via a filter of childish naivety.
So it was that I began to read When The Lights Went Out: What Really Happened to Britain in the
Seventies, now in paperback and retitled Lost Decade.
The 1970s began under Tory rule, with Ted Heath as Prime Minister. Yet it was a very different kind of
Tory party. Heath was a liberal Conservative who believed in a third way. He was pro-union and pro-
EEC, and launched the Department of the Environment. He favored devolution of power to Scotland
and Wales. When Rolls-Royce aircraft engines was about to go bankrupt, he led a successful move to
nationalize the company until it could be returned to a stable financial footing.
Of course, Heath wasnt all good. He also suspended the Northern Ireland government, and his
government introduced indefinite detention without charge and torture of prisonersthough he later
changed his mind and banned the latter.
Like US President Richard Nixon, its now very hard to look back and understand how Heath was seen
as right wing at the time; a sad reflection on just how off-center UK and US politics have become.
Communism was still alive then, and seemed like it might survive. Feminist and gay rights groups
were founded; apparently Time Out magazine in the 70s had a Revolution section, with details of sit-
ins and other direct political action events. Change was happening. It seems that universities and
colleges really were the castles of left-wing orthodoxy that some conservatives believe they are
today. Meanwhile, the big, vague concern throughout the 70s was declinism, an obsession with the
idea that Britain had no futurethe phrase which ultimately became a rallying cry of punk rock.
Yet the 1970s saw plenty of attempts at pushing Britain into a modern age, and those are the things I
remember most. The Advanced Passenger Train, the Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactor, Ariel 5, the
Thames Barrier, the Channel Tunnel, the Post Office Tower and the rise of the UKs own computer
industry. There was even a project to build a third London airporton the islands of the Thames estuary.
Many projects were killed by the mid-70s recession and the oil price spike. Yet the 70s recession
wasnt actually that bad; by 1977-78, the economy had rebounded. Poverty levels were at their lowest
ever, disposable income was growing, inflation was under 10% again, unemployment was far lower
than it would be in the 80s, and so on. Yet the dominant narrative is that the 70s recession was awful,
while the 80s recessions were necessary. I think this is down to one key fact: the 70s recession hit the
rich and the middle class, whereas in the 80s it was the poor who got screwed.
So how did we get from a relatively healthy rebounding economy, to a Tory government with mass
unemployment, riots in the streets, and the total destruction of several British industries? Well, as far
as I can make out, it went like this
In the mid 70s, the Labour Government under Jim Callahan introduced The Social Contract. The idea
was that Britain would be run the way Germany was run at the time: union leaders and government
ministers would meet and discuss policy, and decide the best way forwards. In practice, of course, the
union leaders decided that they were the government, and that their job was to get the best possible
deal for their members, at the expense of anyone else.
Meanwhile, the UK economy had been propped up for decades by a series of IMF loans. But in the
70s, US right wingers started to set IMF policy, and the Labour government discovered the money
was running out.
Denis Healey, Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, knew that fiscal discipline was necessary. So
did Callahan. So in 1975, Healey introduced a revolutionary idea: government departments would
actually have fixed budgets, and once they spent their budget, theywouldnt get any more money. To
add insult to injury, both men tried to give speeches at the Labour Party Conference in 1976 telling
members that the situation was serious, that things had to change, that the government couldnt go on
spending money it didnt have.
I remember seeing on the news what happened next: the audience booed Healey off the stage, and
delegates voted to nationalize the banking industry and defy the IMF.
Nevertheless, Healey and Callahan somehow rammed through cuts in spending. As I mentioned
before, the economy started to rebound. Thats when the problems really began.
The Transport and General Workers Union decided to abandon the Social Contract, feeling that it was
getting in the way of their attempts to get the best possible wages for TGWU members. Callahan and
Healey were trying to limit pay increases to 5%, to try and keep a grip on inflation. The TGWU at Ford
went on strike, with a slogan of Stuff their 5%. Ford caved quickly, offering the union 17%, and they
accepted. Callahans government attempted to retaliate by withdrawing various subsidies being paid
to Ford, but was forced into a U-turn. Seeing this, almost every other union began a program of
random strikes for better paythe so-called Winter of Discontent.
Labour were apparently completely unprepared for this. They were being kept in power by a narrow
margin, with help from the Liberals and the Scottish Nationalists. With an election in a few months,
they had been thinking Well, surely the unions wouldnt be that stupid
Into this mess strode Margaret Thatcher. In the mid 70s she had apparently been viewed as an
aberration by most Tories, and had carefully hidden her right-wing beliefs. Now she went on TV, and
unexpectedly called from an end to immigration, to stop foreigners from taking British jobs.
Immigration was falling at the time, but the speech made the National Front vote collapse and switch
to voting Conservative. Thatcher followed up by floating a bunch of right-wing anti-union ideas,
undiscussed with anyone else, during a TV interview. The mask was off, and a country angry at strikes
and power cuts thought they liked what they saw.
The Scottish Nationalist Party saw the trouble Labour was in, and decided to take advantage of the
situation. They threatened to vote No Confidence against the government unless Labour would agree
to full devolution for Scotland. Once again, Labour apparently thought Well, theyd never be that
stupid They called the SNPs bluff. The SNP voted with the Conservatives, and kicked Labour out
of power. An election was held. Margaret Thatcher narrowly grabbed power on a wave of racism and
And so it was that the SNP fucked Scotland, and the unions fucked their members. Thatchers
government had watched the unions take down Heath and Callahan, so she set about utterly
destroying union power at any costeven if it meant destroying UK manufacturing industry and the
coal industry. Mines were closed even when they were profitable.
Could things have been different? The overriding impression I got from the book was that culturally,
Britain in the 70s was too busy looking back at the past, and ignoring the future. People didnt want
things to change. They didnt want new technology; I remember endless books and TV shows
predicting doom for society because of the introduction of computers. Ultimately it was this complacent
feeling, the idea that things could carry on like they had for years, that doomed the Britain I felt some
connection to. I now realize that in many ways, I didnt fit in even as a child.
Right now, its the run-up to a general election in the UK. Once again a Labour government will be
kicked out and replaced with a Tory one. Its rather nice not to have to care.
Gran Bretaa en la dcada de 1970, qu ha pasado?
rase una vez, hubo un pas.
Se haba empezado como asociacin informal de lucha contra los Estados-nacin, sino por la Edad
Media se convirti en un reino. Algunos de los nombres de sus monarcas siguen siendo familiar a
toda persona bien educada, sus historias todava se cuenta en las aulas de todo el mundo.
Despus de unos pocos cientos de aos, una guerra civil y una decapitacin, se decidi que el
consejo del rey debe ser reorganizado, y no debe haber elecciones. As comenz una de las ms
antiguas democracias parlamentarias en el mundo. El reino se convirti en el punto de partida de dos
revoluciones ms: la revolucin agrcola, y despus de la revolucin industrial.
En poco tiempo el reino cedi a la tentacin, y utiliz su podero industrial de gobernar los mares. Se
convirti en un imperio que abarcaba el mundo. Mighty flotas comerciales convertido en el centro de
comercio mundial. Sus antiguas instituciones de aprendizaje convertido en un centro de la cultura y la
ciencia. El mundo pareca girar en torno a su ciudad capital, y cada mapa se marca correspondiente.
Los imperios nunca duran, sin embargo. Pronto las naciones jvenes advenedizos se separ del
Imperio y comenz a crecer ms rpido que sus padres. El centro del poder econmico mundial
comenz a cambiar. Mayores naciones que haban sido colonizados lucharon por su libertad, y gan
a veces.
As fue que el Reino que se haba convertido en un Imperio, se convirti en un pas. No es un pas
perfecto, por cualquier medio, pero con una fuerte tradicin de libertad y la libertad, abundantes
suministros de energa, y una industria manufacturera con problemas pero todava activo. Entonces la
dcada de 1970 pas ...
"Cuando Inglaterra fue un reino, que tena un rey. Cuando ramos un imperio, tuvimos un
emperador. Ahora somos un pas ... y tenemos que Margaret Thatcher "-. Kenny Everett, poco antes
de ser despedido de Radio BBC.
Hay una sabidura convencional acerca de Gran Bretaa en la dcada de 1970, que era todo tristeza
y la miseria y el desempleo. Vers conservadores todava hoy se refiere a la dcada como si fuera
una especie de pesadilla que inevitablemente se repetir a menos que se vuelven a colocar en el
poder, una especie de Clockwork Orange distopa que slo ellos pueden evitar.
Eso no fue como me acord de aquellos aos, sin embargo. Mis recuerdos parecan seguir una
narracin muy diferente. Por supuesto, yo apenas recordaba los aos 70, siendo tan joven en ese
momento. Yo tambin realmente no tiene ningn inters en la poltica hasta que mi tiempo en la
universidad. As que tuve la sospecha de que podra ser mal recuerdo de todo lo que a travs de un
filtro de ingenuidad infantil.
As fue que empec a leer cuando se apagaron las luces: Qu sucedi realmente a Gran Bretaa en
los aos setenta , ahora en edicin de bolsillo con el nuevo ttulo dcada perdida .
La dcada de 1970 comenz bajo el gobierno conservador, con Ted Heath como Primer Ministro. Sin
embargo, era un tipo muy diferente de partido Tory. Heath era un conservador liberal que crea en
una "tercera va". Estaba a favor del sindicato y pro-CEE, y puso en marcha el Departamento de
Medio Ambiente. Estaba a favor de la devolucin del poder a Escocia y Gales. Cuando Rolls-Royce
motores de avin estaba a punto de ir a la quiebra, lider un movimiento acertado para nacionalizar la
empresa hasta que pudiera regresar a una base financiera estable.
Por supuesto, Heath no estaba muy bien. Tambin suspendi el gobierno del Norte Irlanda y su
gobierno introdujo la detencin indefinida sin cargos y tortura de los prisioneros-aunque ms tarde
cambi de opinin y se le prohibi el segundo.
Al igual que EE.UU. el presidente Richard Nixon, ahora es muy difcil mirar atrs y entender cmo
Heath fue visto como el ala derecha a la vez, un triste reflejo de hasta qu punto fuera del centro del
Reino Unido y de la poltica de Estados Unidos se han convertido. El comunismo estaba vivo
entonces, y pareca que podra sobrevivir. Grupos feministas y de derechos gay se fundaron, al
parecer, la revista Time Out en los aos 70 tena una "revolucin" seccin, con los detalles de las
sentadas y otros actos de accin directa polticos. Cambio que estaba sucediendo. Parece que las
universidades y colegios en realidad eran los castillos de la ortodoxia de izquierdas que algunos
conservadores creen que son hoy. Mientras tanto, la gran preocupacin, vaga a travs de los aos 70
fue "declivismo", una obsesin con la idea de que Gran Bretaa "no tena futuro", la frase que en
ltima instancia se convirti en un grito de guerra de punk rock.
Sin embargo, la dcada de 1970 vio un montn de intentos de presionar a Gran Bretaa a una era
moderna, y esas son las cosas que ms recuerdo. El Tren de pasajeros Avanzado, el Advanced
refrigerado por gas Reactor, Ariel 5 , la barrera del Tmesis, el Canal de la Mancha, la Torre de la
oficina de correos y el surgimiento del sector informtico propio del Reino Unido. Incluso haba un
proyecto de construccin de un tercio aeropuerto de Londresen las islas del estuario del Tmesis.
Muchos proyectos fueron asesinados por la recesin a mediados de los aos 70 y el pico del precio
del petrleo. Sin embargo, la recesin de los aos 70 no era en realidad tan malo, por 1977-78, la
economa se haba recuperado. Los niveles de pobreza son los ms bajos ingresos nunca,
desechable iba en aumento, la inflacin fue inferior al 10% de nuevo, el desempleo era mucho menor
de lo que sera en los aos 80, y as sucesivamente. Sin embargo, el discurso dominante es que la
recesin aos 70 era horrible, mientras que las 80 recesiones eran necesarias. Creo que esto se
debe a un hecho clave: la recesin de los aos 70 golpe a los ricos y la clase media, mientras que
en los aos 80 fueron los pobres quienes se jodieron.
Entonces, cmo hemos llegado a una economa relativamente saludable rebote, a un gobierno
conservador con el desempleo masivo, los disturbios en las calles, y la destruccin total de varios
sectores britnicos? Bueno, por lo que he podido averiguar, era as ...
En los aos 70 mediados de, el Gobierno laborista bajo Jim Callahan present el Contrato Social. La
idea era que Gran Bretaa se ejecute de la manera Alemania se llev a cabo en ese momento: los
dirigentes sindicales y los ministros del gobierno se renen y discuten de poltica, y decidir los
delanteros mejor manera. En la prctica, por supuesto, los dirigentes sindicales decidieron que fuera
el gobierno, y que su trabajo consista en obtener el mejor acuerdo posible para sus miembros, a
expensas de los dems.
Mientras tanto, la economa del Reino Unido se haba apoyado durante dcadas por una serie de
prstamos del FMI. Pero en los aos 70, ala derecha de Estados Unidos comenzaron a establecer las
polticas del FMI y el gobierno laborista descubri el dinero se estaba acabando.
Denis Healey, ministro de Hacienda en ese momento, saba que la disciplina fiscal era necesaria. Lo
mismo hizo Callahan. As, en 1975, Healey introdujo una idea revolucionaria: los departamentos del
gobierno en realidad tendra presupuestos fijos , y una vez que pasaron su presupuesto, no
conseguira ms dinero . Para colmo de males, los dos hombres trataron de dar discursos en la
Conferencia del Partido Laborista en 1976, diciendo a los miembros que la situacin era grave, que
las cosas tenan que cambiar, que el gobierno no poda seguir gastando dinero que no tena.
Recuerdo haber visto en las noticias lo que pas despus: el pblico abuche Healey fuera del
escenario , y los delegados votaron a favor de la nacionalizacin de la banca y desafiar al FMI.
Sin embargo, Healey y Callahan alguna manera estrell a travs de recortes en el gasto.Como
mencion antes, la economa comenz a recuperarse. Fue entonces cuando los problemas realmente
El Sindicato de Transporte y Trabajadores Generales decidi abandonar el contrato social, la
sensacin de que se estaba haciendo en el camino de sus intentos de conseguir la paga mejor
posible para los miembros de TGWU. Callahan y Healey estaban tratando de limitar los aumentos
salariales al 5%, para tratar de mantener un control sobre la inflacin. El TGWU en Ford fueron a la
huelga, con un lema de "Cosas de su 5%". Ford se derrumb rpidamente, ofreciendo la unin del
17%, y lo aceptaron. Gobierno de Callahan intent tomar represalias retirando diversos subsidios que
se pagan a Ford, pero se vio obligado a un cambio de sentido. Al ver esto, casi todos los otro
sindicato inici un programa de huelgas por mejores salarios al azar-el llamado "invierno del
Trabajo eran al parecer completamente sin preparacin para ello. Ellos se mantenan en el poder por
un estrecho margen, con la ayuda de los liberales y los nacionalistas escoceses.Con una eleccin en
unos pocos meses, haba estado pensando "Bueno, seguramente los sindicatos no sera tan estpido
En medio de este lo se dirigi Margaret Thatcher. En los aos 70 mediados de que al parecer haba
sido visto como una aberracin por la mayora de los conservadores, y se haba escondido
cuidadosamente sus derechas creencias. Ahora, ella apareci en la televisin, y de forma inesperada
llamada desde el fin de la inmigracin, para impedir que los extranjeros tomando trabajos
britnicos. Inmigracin caa en ese momento, pero el discurso pronunciado el colapso del frente
votacin nacional y pasar a la votacin conservadora. Thatcher sigui flotando por un grupo de
extrema derecha anti-sindicales ideas, sin discutir con nadie ms, durante una entrevista
televisiva. La mscara estaba apagado, y un pas enojado con huelgas y cortes de energa pensaban
que les gust lo que vieron.
El Partido Nacionalista Escocs vio el trabajo estaba en problemas, y decidi tomar ventaja de la
situacin. Amenazaron con voto de desconfianza contra el gobierno a menos del Trabajo de acuerdo
a la devolucin total para Escocia. Una vez ms, los laboristas al parecer pens "Bueno, nunca sera
tan estpido ..." Llamaron farol del SNP. El SNP vot con los conservadores, y pate Trabajo fuera
del poder. La eleccin se llev a cabo. Margaret Thatcher por poco hizo con el poder en una ola de
racismo y anti-sindicalismo.
Y as fue que el SNP jodido Escocia, y los sindicatos follan sus miembros. Gobierno de Thatcher
haba visto a los sindicatos bajar Heath y Callahan, por lo que se dedic a destruir completamente el
poder sindical a toda costa, incluso si eso significaba la destruccin de la industria manufacturera del
Reino Unido y de la industria del carbn. Las minas fueron cerradas, incluso cuando eran rentables.
Las cosas han sido diferentes? La impresin general que tengo de este libro es que culturalmente,
Gran Bretaa en los aos 70 estaba demasiado ocupado mirando hacia atrs en el pasado e ignorar
el futuro. La gente no quera que las cosas cambien. No queran que la nueva tecnologa; Recuerdo
interminables libros y programas de televisin que predicen la condenacin para la sociedad debido a
la introduccin de las computadoras. Finalmente fue este sentimiento complaciente, la idea de que las
cosas pueden seguir as lo haban hecho durante aos, que acab con la Gran Bretaa me senta
alguna conexin con. Ahora me doy cuenta que en muchos aspectos, no me cabe en incluso cuando
era nio.
En estos momentos, es el perodo previo a las elecciones generales en el Reino Unido. Una vez ms
un gobierno laborista ser expulsado y reemplazado por un Tory uno. Es bastante agradable no tener
que cuidar.

Por qu la dcada de 1970 se pint como una dcada mala?
Of all post-war decades, the 1970s has undoubtedly had the worst press, but the
truth is that most ordinary families in 1970s Britain were better off than ever,
writes historian Dominic Sandbrook.
The 1950s are symbolised by the television and the washing machine, which
transformed the lives of so many families.
We misremember the 1960s as the decade of the Mini, which was actually invented in
1959, the mini-skirt, which surprisingly few women actually wore, and the Pill, which
most women never took. We remember the 1980s as the decade of gigantic hair,
shoulder-pads, the Filofax and the home computer.
But in the popular imagination the 1970s are the poor relations, to be lampooned and
despised - the era of Edward Heath, the decade of the donkey jacket, the age of the
Austin Allegro.
When they flash up on our screens, we see lurid wallpaper, silly hairstyles and burly
men warming their hands around braziers. Who would ever want to commemorate all
In many ways this habit of giving decades different historical personalities is a bit of a
gimmick, a quirk of the calendar, that distorts the way we remember the recent past.
Look at any photograph from the mid-1970s, and you can often see people wearing
clothes that would have been at the cutting edge of fashion in 1958.
Footage of picket-line confrontations often shows strikers wearing suits and ties, as
though dressing for a family wedding.
The teenagers dancing on Top of the Pops are usually wearing yesterday's fashions,
topped off with a pair of National Health glasses.
Even the burly policemen standing protectively around Margaret Thatcher as she
walked into Downing Street in May 1979, with their luxuriant moustaches and thick
sideburns, looked as though they had been transported 10 years forward in time.
But like so many stereotypes, the cliches of the grim 1970s have more than a grain of
truth. These were desperately difficult years for Britain, both politically and
In many ways they marked a reckoning for a country that had been too complacent for
too long, basking in the sunshine of post-war affluence, and indifferent to the fact that
our foreign competitors had not only caught up with us - they were leaving us behind.
In 1970, the self-made builder's son Edward Heath came to power promising a "quiet
revolution" that would turn around the fortunes of Great Britain PLC.
Sailor Ted, however, soon ran aground, his ship scuppered by the lethal combination
of an energy crisis, a financial crash and a second miners' strike in two years.
And though Labour's Harold Wilson got the country back to work, it came at the price
of inflation at almost 30% and a humiliating bailout from the IMF.
Perhaps fittingly, the decade ended with another prime minister being humiliated by
the unions in the Winter of Discontent, though this time the victim was the veteran
Labour bruiser Jim Callaghan.
Perhaps never before had the political establishment seemed so impotent and
irrelevant - little wonder, then, that for the first time in years, emigrants actually
outnumbered immigrants.
Even Callaghan himself seemed to have little faith in his native land. "Our place in the
world is shrinking: our economic comparisons grow worse, long-term political influence
depends on economic strength - and that is running out," he told his colleagues in
November 1974. "If I were a young man, I should emigrate."
And yet the strange thing about the 1970s is that although many people vividly
remember the power cuts, strikes and shocking headlines, they often have surprisingly
affectionate personal memories of the decade that taste forgot.
It has become a cliche to look back through rose-tinted glasses at the world of
Bagpuss, space hoppers and Curly Wurlies - all of which, I should admit, dominate my
memories of the decade, because I was born in 1974.
But in a funny way, those things actually work very well as symbols of the decade,
because what they represent is the reality of everyday affluence.
The fact that so many children had space hoppers, ludicrous as it may seem, is
testament to the fact that even working-class families now had a solid disposable
income and could afford toys for their younger members.
Even Star Wars, which first went on general release in Britain in early 1978, would
never have become such a phenomenon had not so many children had the pocket
money for all those Palitoy figures.
The truth is that behind all those terrible economic and political headlines, most
ordinary families in 1970s Britain were better off than ever.
While people shook their heads sorrowfully over the breakfast table, digesting the
news of some new IRA bombing or absurdly petty British Leyland strike, their
surroundings often told a rather more optimistic story.
The lurid furnishings of their new suburban homes, the swanky hostess trolley in the
kitchen, the bottles of Blue Nun and Black Tower cooling in the fridge, the brand new
colour television in the lounge, the turmeric-coloured Rover SD1 in the drive, even
their teenage children's painfully tight flared trousers - all of those things, which are so
easy to satirise today, reflected the realities of a brave new world, forged in the
crucible of mass abundance.
And although we often think of the 1970s as the end of something - the tired,
miserable hangover after the long party of the Swinging Sixties - it makes much more
sense to see them as the beginning of a new chapter in the story of modern Britain.
For most ordinary people, after all, the 1970s brought new experiences that their
parents and grandparents could barely have imagined.
The most obvious example is the package holiday abroad, which 30 years earlier
would have seemed like something from science fiction.
In 1971, British tourists took some four million holidays abroad - which then seemed
an awful lot. But by 1973 that figure had jumped to nine million and by 1981 it was
more than 13 million.
For even relatively poor, working-class families, holidays no longer meant Blackpool
and Bognor but Malta and Majorca. And "abroad", once regarded with such suspicion,
now meant two weeks of sun, sea, sand and sangria.
The boom in foreign holidays was only one example of a nation broadening its
horizons. Yes, the TV schedules were still full of casual sexism and astonishing
racism, while teenage boys who wore make-up in emulation of Marc Bolan and David
Bowie often risked a vigorous kicking.
But from professional working women to long-haired footballers, from pornography in
the corner shop to computers in the office, the cultural texture of British life probably
changed more quickly between 1970 and 1980 than during any other post-war
As late as 1971, women were banned from going into Wimpy Bars on their own, after
midnight, on the grounds that the only women out on their own at that hour must be
Yet only eight years after that rule was lifted, Margaret Thatcher was walking into
Downing Street as Britain's first woman Prime Minister. There could hardly be a better
symbol of change.
Of course Mrs Thatcher's election victory is often seen as the decisive watershed in
our recent history - the moment when everything was radically transformed, for good
or ill. But Mrs Thatcher won in 1979 not just because she offered something different,
but because she understood how much Britain had changed already.
As a working woman distrusted by the traditionalists, she was a fitting representative
of the changes that had remade Britain in the previous 10 years.
She appealed to a new spirit of self-interested materialism - the same spirit that the
Yorkshire miners' leader, Arthur Scargill, of all people, had captured as early as 1970,
when he told an interviewer: "You only get as much as you are prepared to go out and
And she appealed to a new ethic of populist individualism - the same ethos of
permanent self-reinvention that David Bowie had captured, when as the androgynous
Ziggy Stardust, he told Britain's teenagers that "one isn't totally what one has been
conditioned to think one is".
Thatcher, Scargill and Bowie. You could hardly imagine three stranger bedfellows - the
grocer's daughter from Grantham, the Marxist miner from Barnsley, the gender-
bending rock star from Bromley.
But in their different ways, they captured the complicated, contrary spirit of a decade
that was richer, more interesting and a lot more important than most of us realise.
Dominic Sandbrook's series The 70s is broadcast on BBC Two at 21:00 BST on
Mondays 16, 23 and 30 April and 7 May 2012. Catch up via BBC iPlayer (UK only) at
the above link.
Por qu la dcada de 1970 se pint como una dcada mala?
De todas las dcadas de la posguerra, la dcada de 1970 ha tenido sin duda la
peor prensa, pero la verdad es que las familias ms comunes en 1970 Gran
Bretaa estaban en mejores condiciones que nunca, escribe el historiador
Dominic Sandbrook.
La dcada de 1950 se simbolizan por la televisin y la lavadora, que transform la
vida de tantas familias.
Nos misremember la dcada de 1960 como la dcada de los Mini, que fue inventado
en 1959, la mini-falda, que las mujeres son sorprendentemente pocos en realidad
llevaba, y la pldora, que nunca tuvo la mayora de las mujeres. Nos acordamos de la
dcada de 1980 como la dcada de pelo gigante, hombreras, Filofax y el ordenador
de casa.
Pero en el imaginario popular la dcada de 1970 son los parientes pobres, para ser
satirizado y despreciado - La era de Edward Heath, la dcada de la chaqueta de
burro, la edad del Allegro de Austin.
Cuando parpadear en nuestras pantallas, vemos wallpaper espeluznante, peinados
ridculos y hombres fornidos calentando sus manos alrededor de los braseros. Quin
va a querer recordar todo eso?
En muchos sentidos, esta costumbre de dar dcadas diferentes personalidades
histricas es un poco de un truco, un capricho del calendario, que distorsiona la forma
en que recordamos el pasado reciente.
Puedes buscar en cualquier fotografa desde mediados de 1970, y que a menudo se
ve gente con ropa que han estado en la vanguardia de la moda en 1958.
Video de los enfrentamientos de la lnea de piquetes huelguistas a menudo muestra
vistiendo traje y corbata, como si vestirse para una boda familiar.
Los adolescentes que bailan en Top of the Pops se suelen llevar la moda de ayer,
coronada con un par de gafas Nacionales de Salud.
Incluso los policas fornidos pie protectoramente alrededor de Margaret Thatcher al
entrar en Downing Street en mayo de 1979, con sus frondosos bigotes y patillas
gruesas, pareca como si hubieran sido transportados 10 aos adelante en el tiempo.
Pero al igual que tantos estereotipos, los clichs de la dcada de 1970 sombras tener
ms de un grano de verdad. Fueron aos difciles para Gran Bretaa
desesperadamente, tanto poltica como econmicamente.
En muchos sentidos, marc un ajuste de cuentas para un pas que haba sido
demasiado complacientes por mucho tiempo, disfrutando del sol de la prosperidad de
la posguerra, e indiferente al hecho de que nuestros competidores extranjeros no
haba captado slo con nosotros - nos estaban dejando detrs.
En 1970, el hijo del constructor hecho a s mismo, Edward Heath lleg al poder
prometiendo una "revolucin silenciosa" que podra cambiar el destino de Gran
Bretaa PLC.
Sailor Ted, sin embargo, pronto encall su barco echado por tierra por la combinacin
letal de una crisis energtica, una crisis financiera y una huelga de los mineros de
segunda 'en dos aos.
Y a pesar de Harold Wilson del Trabajo tiene el pas de vuelta al trabajo, se produjo
en el precio de la inflacin en casi un 30% y un rescate humillante del FMI.
Tal como corresponde, la dcada termin con otro primer ministro de ser humillado
por los sindicatos en el invierno del descontento, aunque esta vez la vctima fue el
veterano boxeador Jim Callaghan Trabajo.
Tal vez nunca antes haba la clase poltica pareca tan impotente e irrelevante - No es
de extraar, entonces, que por primera vez en aos, los emigrantes en realidad
superaron a los inmigrantes.
Incluso el propio Callaghan pareca tener poca fe en su tierra natal. "Nuestro lugar en
el mundo se est reduciendo: las comparaciones econmicas empeoran, a largo
plazo, la influencia poltica depende de la fortaleza econmica - y que se est
acabando", dijo a sus colegas en noviembre de 1974. "Si yo fuera un hombre joven,
debera emigrar".
Y sin embargo, lo extrao de la dcada de 1970 es que, aunque muchas personas
recuerdan vivamente los cortes de electricidad, huelgas y titulares impactantes, tienen
a menudo sorprendentemente cariosos recuerdos personales de la dcada que el
sabor olvidado.
Se ha convertido en un clich de mirar hacia atrs a travs de lentes color de rosa en
el mundo de la Bagpuss, tolvas espaciales y Wurlies Curly - todo lo cual, debo admitir
que dominan mis recuerdos de la dcada, porque yo nac en 1974.
Pero de una manera divertida, esas cosas realmente funcionan muy bien como
smbolos de la dcada, ya que lo que representan es la realidad de la afluencia diaria.
El hecho de que tantos nios tenan tolvas espacio, ridculos que pueda parecer, es
un testimonio del hecho de que incluso las familias de clase trabajadora ahora tenan
una renta disponible slida y poda permitirse juguetes para sus miembros ms
Incluso guerra de las galaxias, que primero se estren en Gran Bretaa a principios
de 1978, nunca se habra convertido en un fenmeno no haba tantos nios tenan el
dinero de bolsillo para todas aquellas figuras Palitoy.
La verdad es que detrs de todos esos titulares terribles econmicas y polticas, las
familias ms comunes en 1970 Gran Bretaa estaba mejor que nunca.
Mientras que la gente menearon la cabeza con tristeza sobre la mesa del desayuno,
digiriendo la noticia de algn nuevo atentado del IRA o huelga britnico absurdamente
pequeo Leyland, su entorno a menudo cont una historia bastante ms optimista.
Los muebles espeluznantes de sus hogares suburbanos nuevos, el carro elegante
anfitriona en la cocina, las botellas de Blue Nun y enfriamiento Tower Negro en la
nevera, el televisor marca nuevo color en el saln, el Rover SD1 crcuma de color en
la unidad, incluso sus hijos adolescentes es dolorosamente apretados pantalones
acampanados - todas esas cosas, que son tan fcil de satirizar la actualidad, refleja
las realidades de un mundo feliz, forjados en el crisol de la abundancia de masas.
Y aunque a menudo pensamos en la dcada de 1970 como el final de algo - la resaca
cansada, triste despus de la fiesta largo de los Swinging Sixties - que tiene mucho
ms sentido para ellos ver como el comienzo de un nuevo captulo en la historia de
Gran Bretaa moderna.
Para las personas ms comunes, despus de todo, la dcada de 1970 trajo nuevas
experiencias que sus padres y abuelos apenas podran haber imaginado.
El ejemplo ms obvio es el paquete de vacaciones en el extranjero, que 30 aos
antes habra parecido como algo de ciencia ficcin.
En 1971, los turistas britnicos tomaron unos cuatro millones de estancias en el
extranjero - que entonces pareca una barbaridad. Pero en 1973 esa cifra haba
aumentado a nueve millones y para 1981 era de ms de 13 millones de dlares.
Porque aun relativamente pobres, familias de clase trabajadora, las vacaciones ya no
significaba Blackpool y Bognor pero Malta y Mallorca. Y "en el extranjero", una vez
vistos con sospecha por ejemplo, ahora significaba dos semanas de sol, mar, arena y
El auge de vacaciones en el extranjero era slo un ejemplo de una nacin ampliando
sus horizontes. S, la programacin de TV todava estaban llenos de sexismo y
racismo ocasional asombroso, mientras que los adolescentes que usaban maquillaje
en la emulacin de Marc Bolan y David Bowie a menudo arriesg una fuerte patada.
Pero a partir de las profesionales que trabajan para pelo largo futbolistas, de la
pornografa en la tienda de la esquina a las computadoras en la oficina, la textura
cultural de la vida britnica probablemente ha cambiado ms rpidamente entre 1970
y 1980 que en cualquier otra dcada de la posguerra.
Hasta 1971, las mujeres tenan prohibido entrar en Bares Wimpy por su cuenta,
despus de la medianoche, con el argumento de que las mujeres slo por su propia
cuenta a esa hora debe ser prostitutas.
Sin embargo, slo ocho aos despus de que la regla se levant, Margaret Thatcher
estaba caminando en Downing Street como la primera mujer britnica Primer
Ministro. Sera difcil encontrar un mejor smbolo del cambio.
Por supuesto, la victoria electoral de la seora Thatcher es a menudo visto como la
cuenca decisivo en nuestra historia reciente - el momento en que todo se transform
radicalmente, para bien o para mal. Pero la seora Thatcher gan en 1979 no slo
porque ofrecen algo diferente, sino porque comprendi cunto Gran Bretaa ya haba
Como una mujer que trabaja la desconfianza de los tradicionalistas, era un
representante adecuado de los cambios que se haban rehecho Gran Bretaa en los
ltimos 10 aos.
Hizo un llamamiento a un nuevo espritu de materialismo egosta - el mismo espritu
que el lder de los mineros de Yorkshire ', Arthur Scargill, ms que nadie, haba
capturado ya en 1970, cuando le dijo a un entrevistador: "Slo se tiene todo lo que
estn preparados para salir a tomar ".
Y ella hizo un llamamiento a una nueva tica del individualismo populista - la misma
filosofa de auto-reinvencin permanente que David Bowie haba capturado, cuando el
andrgino Ziggy Stardust, le dijo a los adolescentes britnicos que "no es totalmente
lo que uno ha sido condicionado para pensar uno es ".
Thatcher, Scargill y Bowie. Difcilmente se podra imaginar tres compaeros de cama
extraos - La hija del tendero de Grantham, el minero marxista de Barnsley, el
gnero-flexin estrella de rock de Bromley.
Sin embargo, en sus diferentes formas, capturaron el espritu complicado, al contrario
de una dcada que era ms rica, ms interesante y cuenta mucho ms importante
que la mayora de nosotros.