Insights into the social history and cultural change of those living in the 1980s give a fascinating overview of life in Thatcher’s Britain.
The Observing the 1980s project at the University of Sussex – funded by Jisc - collates first-hand accounts, written by volunteers, of their daily lives and views which were collected throughout the decade as part of the Mass Observation Archive. This material offers a unique and inspiring insight into the lives and opinions of British people from all social classes and regions during the 80s period.
The project brings together ‘voices’ from the Mass Observation Project and the British Library’s Oral history collections alongside 1980s documents and ephemera such as public information leaflets, pamphlets, posters and tickets from the University of Sussex Library’s archives. As well as Margaret Thatcher, the Falklands War and the miners’ strike, other topics covered include Charles and Diana’s wedding, terrorism, AIDS, unemployment and immigration.
Paola Marchionni, programme manager at Jisc, says:
“Jisc has invested in this project in recognition of the value of how people’s stories can enrich the teaching and learning of recent history. Observing the 1980s is a truly collaborative effort that brings together different departments and expertise within the University of Sussex along with external partners, such as the British Library, in the delivery of innovative open educational resources.”
The material is also embedded into the University of Sussex Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) using open Moodle software. A variety of open education resources have been created including one titled ‘Thatcher's Britain: Observing the 1980s’ – this contains videos, images and slides and can be accessed by anyone through a guest login with no need sign up. There are also several infographics covering the Falklands Conflict, unemployment, the miners’ strike and sexuality in Thatcher’s Britain on the website.
Historian Dr Lucy Robinson, academic lead for the project who created the 1984: Thatcher's Britain course at the University of Sussex and developed the new open version, says:
“The 1980s is attractive to historians because the decade is both close enough and far away enough to allow us to explore the limits of historical perspective and offers a diverse range of subjects in what was the last era before the internet revolution. A lot of the material comprises the personal memories of people who lived through the Thatcher era, making this resource seem all the more resonant now.”
Additionally, a key benefit for educators is in the raw nature of the information and its potential use across subject areas such as politics, sociology, oral history, cultural and media studies, linguistics, gender studies, narrative and memory studies, migration studies, folklore studies, anthropology and contemporary history. Currently no established historiography of the 1980s exists, which adds to the value of digitising these collections and disseminating them as open educational resources.
It will also be available through HumBox and JORUM as well as via other educational resource sites such as the British Library.
Hear Dr Robinson talk about the Observing the 80s project on YouTube.