Observing the 1980s

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Scope and Content

The 1980s are often presented historically as a decade of polar opposites and social stratification. This collection seeks to address that by presenting first-hand accounts of life throughout the decade from a variety of contributors.

'Observing the 1980s' includes written material and audio interviews with British people from across the social classes, as they reacted to events and general living conditions during the decade.

The project features the writing of 23 anonymous Mass Observation participants from the 1980s - the Mass Observation project provides a structured way for ordinary people to write about their lives and contribute to historical archives and social research.

26 audio interviews from the British Library's Oral History Collection also feature, enabling those interested in the decade to gain relevant access to the British Library's vast sound archive.

Documents from the University of Sussex's open access archive complete the collection by offering access to reports, newspaper cuttings, public information leaflets and government documents that relate to key themes and events of the decade.

Conditions Governing Access

Unless otherwise stated, content within this collection is licensed under Creative Commons.


This is a description of a themed collection. Themed collections are curated collections of archival resources, which are often digitised and made available through a portal on the internet. In this description, you will find information about the themed collection, including what it contains, and a link to where you can find out more and access the material.

Other Finding Aids

Access this resource online: http://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/observingthe80s/


A Jisc funded digitisation initiative. Publisher: University of Sussex & The British Library

Additional Information

This collection offers an overarching view of the decade, as well as individual and personal takes on events and daily life. It is of use to a wide variety of teachers and researchers – from social, political and economic history to the social sciences and those focusing on particular events and themes like the poll tax, the miner' strike, immigration issues, the declining economy and Thatcher's Britain.

The collection also offers infographics on a range of topics, including The Falklands War, Sexuality, Unemployment and Christmas. A Facebook Timeline and Youtube Playlist have been created to complement the collection's resources. Moodle users can download the entire teaching site via links on the collection's homepage and a full reading list of close to 500 items can also be accessed via the collection.