From Douglas Adams to Lord Scarman and Umberto Eco to Oliver Sacks, the historian chooses his pick from a turbulent decade.
“Each decade leaves its imprint on the memory. Images from the 1980s suggest a time of excitement and bustle – Live Aid, Princess Diana, the Falklands War, mass pickets outside Rupert Murdoch’s new Wapping plant, testosterone-driven yuppies doing frenetic trade on the floor of a deregulated stock market, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Berlin Wall coming tumbling down, apartheid in its final throes. The western world saw more social change in those 10 years than in any other decade since the war.
“But the much used cliché about the curse of interesting times did not apply to the average person. It was bad for those who joined the very long queues, especially in former mining villages or steel towns, but the majority went about their daily routines, finding themselves better off as the years went by, and would not have known they were living through exciting events without the expanding newspaper industry and increasing number of television channels.
“In the bookshops, you could find some very good books firmly located in the 1980s which dealt with topics like the rise of Thatcher or the causes of the Brixton riots, but equally there was escapist fiction or interesting non-fiction that took out of everyday life. Not a year passed without something new and memorable landing on the shelves.”