The 70s: Defining the Decade

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Duration 01:03:03

University of Massachusetts Boston

Vincent Cannato is a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he teaches courses on 20th century American history, urban history, immigration history, and baseball history. He is the author of American Passage: The History of Ellis Island; The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and his Struggle to Save New York; and co-editor of Living in the Eighties. He has also written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.


Inflation? Stagnant economy? Rising energy prices? Embarrassing withdrawal from a foreign war? Battles over abortion and affirmative action? Declining faith in institutions? A general feeling of malaise about the country? Sounds like life in America today; but it actually describes America in the 1970s. No, Americans aren’t wearing bell bottoms or polyester leisure suits today, but many of our contemporary issues sound a lot like the problems that the nation faced in the 1970s. Join history professor Vincent Cannato to hear about this pivotal, but sometimes overlooked, decade in American history and learn about how the decade influenced our own time…and how it might provide lessons for escaping our current condition.


Recommended Reading:

The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics, by Bruce J. Schulman

Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right, by Dominic Sandbrook


Discussion Questions:

1. In what sense did the problems of the 1970s help pave the way for the election of Ronald Reagan as president and the rise of the conservative movement?
2. What factors best explain the economic difficulties that America experienced in the 1970s?




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Linda Sainsbury

Great comparison of the ‘70’s vs now

Did a great job discussing these 2 eras in our history fairly and without bias. Really enjoyed it.

2 years ago
barbara ann.fields

Lived through both period as an adult

Having been a adult in the 70’s, I lived through those times as a Black female and see a parallel between then and now.It seems as the country is trying to go back to those times but the resistance is stronger now as the push back is increasing. We have learned very little from the past and each new generation thinks what they are experiencing is new.I see look BA k and learn then turn around and go forward.
Thank you for the lecture….

1 year ago
Richard Hofstetter

Smart and easy presentation

I expected superficial historical overview. Comparisons between 1970s and 2020s (yikes!) very inciteful; lots that I hadn’t considered. Enjoyed his style; beyond reading from a presentation; but thoroughly organized and helpful. Will look for more presentations from him. And I’m a boomer. Thanks.

9 months ago
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