The 1980s—A Historiographical Survey

Authored by: Vincent J. Cannato

The Routledge History of the Twentieth-Century United States

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138892071
eBook ISBN: 9781315709345
Adobe ISBN:


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American historians of the twentieth century have too often found themselves prisoners of the “decade.” The issue of periodization is a perennial challenge, but it seems especially true as historians grapple with public perceptions of individual decades representing important mileposts. The 1920s has long been defined with the “Roaring Twenties” of flappers and Prohibition; the 1950s a decade of prosperity and “conformity”; and the 1960s lives on as an era of social protests and counterculture. A recent television series by CNN, for instance, has reinforced this historical tyranny of the decades by running a series of documentaries focused on the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties (with another series on the Nineties in the works). Historians have both worked within the constraint of the decade, while also attempting to complicate these ten-year chunks of time.

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