Crisis? What Crisis?


Britain in the 1970s
Alwyn W Turner

Rigsby: 'This country gets more like the boiler room on the Titanic every day: confused orders from the bridge, water swirling round our ankles. The only difference is they had a band.' Rising Damp (1977)

'Goodbye, Great Britain. It was nice knowing you.' Wall Street Journal (1975)

The 1970s. Strikes, power-cuts, three-day weeks, inflation, Paki-bashing and the dead left unburied. Or, from another perspective, a period dominated by Morecambe & Wise, glam rock, detective fiction, club football, Get Carter and The Good Life. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Wealth inequality was at a record low, but industrial disruption was at a record high. These were the glory years of Dr Who and Coronation Street, but the darkest days of the Northern Ireland conflict.

In 1978 LWT launched a new series, The South Bank Show, to cover 'the consumed arts - cinema, rock, paperbacks and even television.' It was an acknowledgement that if you wanted to understand modern Britain, you had to look at popular culture. Crisis? What Crisis? follows that lead, telling the story of Britain in the 1970s through the soaps and sitcoms, the music and movies, the fiction, fashion and sport of the time. It was a culture that reflected a turbulent political reality: a Tory prime minister asked 'Who runs the country?' - and lost the subsequent election; Enoch Powell's 'rivers of blood' continued to dominate the immigration debate; and the Wilson era gave way to a period of economic crisis and industrial action that by the end of the decade had given birth to Thatcherism.

Meticulously researched, this confident, engaging and well-argued history of the 1970s features dozens of original interviews with contemporary politicians, rock stars, actors, designers, as well as drawing on the books, films, sitcoms and media of the time. This is not an insider's account of the crises that wracked Britain in that decade. Rather it is the consumer's version, a world seen through the eyes of the mass media, in which Tony Benn, Mary Whitehouse and environmentalists jostle for space with David Bowie, Hilda Ogden and skinheads.

Crisis? What Crisis?
Britain in the 1970s

by Alwyn W Turner
to be published by Aurum, 8 May 2008
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