The 1970s on TV: a blend of political and cultural history

dominic_sandbrookBy Christian O’Connell:  This weekend I caught this BBC documentary on the 1970s in Britian. Dominic Sandbrook, author of White Heat: a history of Britain in the Swinging Sixties (2006) and State of Emergency: The way we were, Britain 1970-74 (2010), presented an interesting overview of the mid-70s, considering Ted Heath’s battles with the miners, the oil prices hike, and crippling inflation, while acknowledging the revolution of lifestyles that were promised a decade earlier in the 1960s. Sandbrook’s approach was refreshing and provocative, not only because of his particular ability to tell a story (I saw him at the Cheltenham Literature Festival last year), but because the major players in British politics of the era were never far removed from the cultural trends of the era, from The Good Life, to Doctor Who and even The Confessions of a Window Cleaner(!) on television, to Suzie Quatro and Slade in pop music. This reminded me of my own interest in the relationship between culture and history, and the way in which historians can use popular culture to learn about events, attitudes and consciousness in the past. I was also reminded of a quote from the black feminist Angela Y. Davis, “Art never achieves greatness through transcendence of sociohistorical reality…it is deeply rooted in social realities.” Thus, I encourage all budding historians to explore these avenues for historical research in future!

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