The 1970s: The Lost Decade

Thursday, February 6, 2014
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum
Carter, Begin, Sadat Sign Peace Accord


Volker Janssen
Associate Professor of History
California State University, Fullerton

About the Seminar

In our public memory, the 1960s occupy a special place. This was the decade of Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy's assassination, the Vietnam War, student protests, and the moon landing. We can also quickly identify the significance of the 1980s with the election of Ronald Reagan, the dawn of a new era of conservatism in American politics at home and abroad, and an economic regime dominated by transnational corporations, the decline of unions, and a global marketplace. The 1970s in contrast to appear like a lost decade defined by little else but inflation, disco, and bellbottoms. However, many historians today consider the 1970s a crucial turning point in 20th century American history.

Rather than simply providing the book end to the turmoil of the 1960s or the prelude to the conservative 1980s, the 1970s help us understand the transformation from “the American century” of the postwar years to the new era of globalization that we still live in today. Be it the transition from a unionized industrial heartland to a globalizing service and information economy; the switch from civil rights debates to campaigns for law and order, the decline of federal dominion and the rise of the tax revolt, or the birth of the Culture War – the 1970s hold the key for understanding the second half of the twentieth century.

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Seminar Recording

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    We offer this worksheet to help teachers bring seminar resources and materials into the classroom. It contains texts, images, and close reading questions to help students understand the culture of the 1970s.

Assigned Readings

  1. Rejecting the Center: Radical Grassroots Politics in the 1970's - Second-Wave Feminism as a Case Study, by J. Zeitz.
  2. Protest Movements in the 1970s: The Long 1960s, by Simon Hall.
  3. Towards Big-Government Conservatism: Conservatives and Federal Aid to Education in the 1970s, by Gareth Davies.

Suggested Additional Resources

  1. Introduction: Reconsidering the 1970s -The 1960s to a Disco Beat?, by Stephen Tuck.
  2. Comment: The Empire Strikes Back -Conservative Responses to Progressive Social Movements in the 1970s, by Bruce J. Schulman.

Online Evaluation

Online evaluation for seminar participants.