There was more to the 80s than Maggie

The Iron Lady casts a long shadow but the decade she symbolises was shaped by immense forces far beyond her control, says Dominic Sandbrook...

Miners on strike after the decision from the High Court of Justice to seize all assets of the labor unions, 1984. (Photo by Alain Nogues/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

This article was first published in the June 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

The eighties. The decade of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the Los Angeles Olympics and the Chernobyl disaster; the decade of Michael Jackson and Madonna; mobile phones and home computers; Solidarity, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Tiananmen Square; the decade the Challenger exploded, the IRA bombed Brighton and the Berlin Wall came down. In Britain we remember the eighties as a uniquely conflicted and controversial decade, when event piled on event with dizzying speed: the years of Heysel and Hillsborough, Steve Davis and Daley Thompson, Duran Duran and Culture Club, Brookside and Blockbusters. In 1980 the economy plunged into the deepest recession since the Great Depression. A year later, Brixton and Toxteth saw the worst urban rioting in living memory. In 1982 Britain sent a task force to reclaim the Falkland Islands from Argentina. In 1984 the miners’ strike ripped communities apart and left scars that have never truly healed.

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