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The Other Eighties

A Secret History of America in the Age of Reagan

Bradford Martin

Hill and Wang

In this engaging book, Bradford Martin illuminates a different 1980s than many remember—one whose history has been buried under the celebratory narrative of conservative ascendancy. Ronald Reagan looms large in most accounts of the period, encouraging Americans to renounce the activist and liberal politics of the 1960s and ’70s and embrace the resurgent conservative wave. But a closer look reveals that a sizable swath of Americans strongly disapproved of Reagan’s policies throughout his presidency. With a weakened Democratic Party scurrying for the political center, many expressed their dissatisfaction outside electoral politics. Unlike the civil rights and Vietnam-era protesters, activists of the 1980s often found themselves on the defensive, struggling to preserve the hard-won victories of the previous era. Their successes, then, were not in ushering in a new era of progressive reforms but in effecting change in areas from professional life to popular culture, while beating back an even more forceful political shift to the right.

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Praise for The Other Eighties

“Other than Sean Wilentz’s The Age of Reagan, Martin has created the first major historical work on this crucial decade. The Other Eighties is much needed opening salvo in a serious discussion about the role of dissent in this era . . .  A new and exciting interpretation of this decade that successfully challenges what we think we know.” —W. Scott Poole, PopMatters
 
“In arguing for a 1980s that not only didn’t uniformly embrace the superficial conformity of the Reagan years but actively laid groundwork for today’s progressive movements, Martin does valuable work.” —Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe
 
“A readable stroll into the bad old days of Piss Christ and Jesse Helms—and guaranteed to make you dig up your Black Flag and Minor Threat tapes.” —Kirkus Reviews
 
“Should be required reading for strategists on the left.” —David Mulcahey, Bookforum
 
“A valuable picture of the complex political cross-currents that swirled in a decade too often seen simplistically as ‘Morning in America.’ ” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Before history reduces the 1980s to Reagan, Rambo, and MTV, Bradford Martin has provided a bracing and much-needed chronicle of the decade’s oppositional culture. With grace and clarity, The Other Eighties reveals the accomplishments, limitations, and legacy of the era’s often-overlooked political and social activists.” Alan Light, former editor-in-chief, Vibe and Spin magazines
 
“Bradford Martin’s fascinating and extensively researched book will take you on a revelatory trip to the other side of Reagan’s 1980s.” Judith E. Smith, Professor of American Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston
 
“Bradford Martin’s pathbreaking history of cultural and political opposition in the 1980s challenges the simplistic narrative of a ‘Reagan Revolution.’ His concise, punchy use of primary sources to document big events like the Freeze, anti-Apartheid, and grunge will be hard to ignore. The Other Eighties shows how the ‘long sixties’ were even longer than many of us realized.” —Van Gosse, author of Rethinking the New Left: An Interpretative History
 
“The best history is that which looks beneath the surface of an era to discover what was happening on the lower frequencies. Readers seeking a richer, more complete understanding of the Age of Reagan should start here.” Robert Widell, Assistant Professor of History, University of Rhode Island
 
“In this provocative and persuasive book, Bradford Martin challenges the prevailing portrait of the 1980s as an era of a conservative ascendancy. Focusing on a wide range of social and political actors—AIDS activists, the divestment movement, welfare rights organizers, post-punk performers and their audiences—Martin constructs an alternative portrait of eighties political culture. An original and thoughtful book, The Other Eighties is sure to prompt significant reconsideration of this crucial period in recent United States history.” —Bruce J. Schulman, author of The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Bradford Martin

  • Bradford Martin is an associate professor of history at Bryant University in Rhode Island. He is the author of The Theater Is in the Street: Politics and Performance in Sixties America.

  • Bradford Martin © Paula Hogan
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    The Other Eighties

    A Secret History of America in the Age of Reagan

    Bradford Martin

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    Hill and Wang

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