The 1970s decade refers to the years from 1970 to 1979, also called The Seventies. In Western cities primarily, the focus shifted from the social activism of the sixties to social activities for one's own pleasure: drug use, all-night dancing at discotheques and swinging parties. The seventies were considered by Tom Wolfe as the "Me Decade." A notable exception was the tremendous growth in environmentalism. It should be noted that many of America's smaller towns had a decidedly tamer experience in the 1970s.
The perception of the established institutions of nuclear family, religion and trust in one's government continued to lose ground during this time. Major developments of the sexual revolution included the awareness of the impact of contraceptive pills on social-interactional relationships, and an increase in divorce rates, single parent households, and pre-marital sex. By the end of the decade, the feminist movement had helped change women's working conditions. The Gay Rights movement became prominent, and the hippie culture, which started in the 1960s, peaked in the early 1970s and carried on through the end of the decade. The United States' withdrawal from its extensive military involvement in Vietnam and the resignation of Richard Nixon helped bring about a sense of malaise and mistrust in political authority.
The United States experienced an economic recession, but the economy of Japan prospered. The economies of many third world countries continued to make steady progress in the early 1970s, because of the green revolution. They might have thrived and become stable in the way that Europe recovered after the war through the Marshall Plan; however, their economic growth was slowed by the oil crisis.
The first ethos of the 1970s emerged from a transition of the global social structure. It reflected the transition from the decline of colonial imperialism since the end of World War II to globalization and the rise of a new middle class in the developing world.
Globally, the 1970s had several features that were similar and definitive across economic levels and regions. These aspects and essence that make up global essence of the 1970s are the defining points of the 1970s: the Bretton Woods system and its subsequent failure, the impact of the contraceptive pill on social-interactional dynamics, the rising of the Black community and the oil shock of 1973.
The developing nations experienced economic growth that came in the wake of political independence. However, several African economies declined and political states became dictatorial regimes. Many Middle Eastern democracies crumbled into chaotic regimes with pseudo-democratic governments.
The 1970s ethos in much of the developing world was characterized by the constant need to re-define social norms to newer socio-economic systems. As well, people were influenced by the rapid pace of change of the new social influences and the constant aspiration for a more egalitarian society in cultures that were long colonized and have an even longer history of hierarchical social structure.
The first face lifts were attempted in the 1970s.
The green revolution of the late 1960s brought about self sufficiency in many developing economies. At the same time an increasing number of people began to seek urban prosperity over agrarian life. This consequently saw the duality of transition of diverse interaction across social communities amid increasing information blockade across social class.
Other common global ethos of the seventies world include: increasingly flexible and varied gender roles for women. More women could enter the work force rather than remain housewives. However, the gender role of men remained as that of a bread-winner. The period also saw unprecedented socioeconomic impact of an ever-increasing number of women entering the non-agrarian economic workforce, and the sweeping cultural-religious impact of the Iranian revolution toward the end of the 1970s.
The global experience of the cultural transition of the 1970s and an experience of a global zeitgeist revealed the interdependence of economies since World War II, and showed the huge impact of American economic policies on the world.
The 1970s was perhaps the worst decade of Western and American economic performance since the Great Depression. Although there was no severe economic depression as witnessed in the 1930s, economic growth rates were considerably lower than previous decades. As a result, the 1970s adversely distinguished itself from the prosperous postwar period between 1945 and 1973. Then, the world economy was buoyed by the Marshall Plan and the robust American economy. However, the high standing enjoyed by the American economy gradually became discomposed by years of loose domestic spending (particularly the Great Society campaign) and funding for the Vietnam war. The oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 added to the existing ailments and conjured high inflation throughout much of the world for the rest of the decade. Soaring oil prices compelled most American businesses to raise their prices as well, with inflationary results.
The average annual inflation rate from 1900 to 1970 was approximately 2.5 percent. From 1970, however, the average rate hit about 6 percent, topping out at 13.3 percent by 1979. This period is also known for "stagflation", a phenomenon in which inflation and unemployment steadily increased, therefore leading to double-digit interest rates that rose to unprecedented levels (above 12% per year). The prime rate hit 21.5 in December 1980, the highest in history. By the time of 1980, when President Jimmy Carter was running for re-election against Ronald Reagan, the misery index (the sum of the unemployment rate and the inflation rate) had reached an all-time high of 21.98 percent.
In Eastern Europe, Soviet-style command economies began showing signs of stagnation, in which successes were persistently dogged by setbacks. The oil shock increased East European, particularly Soviet, exports, but agriculture became a growing annoyance to such economies.
Economically, the seventies were marked by the energy crisis which peaked in 1973 and 1979 (see 1973 oil crisis and 1979 oil crisis). After the first oil shock in 1973, gasoline was rationed in many countries. Europe particularly depended on the Middle East for oil; the U.S. was also affected even though it had its own oil reserves. Many European countries introduced car-free days. In the U.S., customers with a license plate ending in an odd number were only allowed to buy gasoline on odd-numbered days, while even-numbered plate-holders could only purchase gasoline on even-numbered days. The experience that oil reserves were not endless and technological development was not sustainable without harming the environment ended the age of modernism. As a result, ecological awareness rose substantially.
The seventies started a mainstream affirmation of the environmental issues early activists from the '60s, such as Rachel Carson and Murray Bookchin had warned of. The moon landing that had occurred at the end of the previous decade transmitted back concrete images of the earth as an integrated, life-supporting system and shaped a public willingness to preserve nature. On April 22, 1970, the United States celebrated its first Earth Day in which over two thousand colleges and universities and roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools participated.
- Main article: Second-wave feminism
Feminism in the United States got its start in the 1960s, but began to take flight starting in 1970, with the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (which legalized female suffrage).
With the anthology Sisterhood is Powerful and other works being published at the start of the decade, feminism started to reach a larger audience than ever before.
- Main article: 1970s in LGBT rights
The Stonewall riots, which occurred in New York City in June 1969, are generally considered to have ignited the modern gay rights movement in the United States. In the 1970s, the gay-rights movement greatly accelerated. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders in 1973, and gay-rights ordinances were passed by several cities. A few openly gay people were elected to political office in the United States, beginning with Harvey Milk, who was later assassinated. The increasing visibility of gay people also generated a backlash during the seventies. In perhaps the most discussed anti-gay rights campaign of the decade, singer Anita Bryant led a successful drive in 1977 to repeal a gay-rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida.
Science and technology
- Main article: 1970s in science
The 1970s witnessed an explosion in the understanding of solid-state physics, driven by the development of the integrated circuit, and the laser. The CERN super-collider was constructed, and Stephen Hawking developed his theories of black holes and the boundary-condition of the universe at this period. The biological sciences greatly advanced, with molecular biology, bacteriology, virology, and genetics achieving their modern forms in this decade. Biodiversity became a cause of major concern as habitat destruction, and Stephen Jay Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium revolutionized evolutionary thought. Space exploration reached its zenith in the 1970s with the ambitious Voyager program aimed at outer planets in the solar system, though Apollo lunar flights terminated in 1972. The Soviet Union developed vital involving long-term human life in free-fall on the Salyut and later Mir space stations.
The birth of modern computing was in the 1970s, which saw the development of the world's first general microprocessor, the C programming language, rudimentary personal computers, pocket calculators, the first supercomputer, and consumer video games. The 1970s were also the start of fiber optics, which transformed the communications industry. In automotive technology, United States and especially Europe turned toward more lightweight, fuel efficient vehicles. Automotive historians have also described the period as 'the era of poor quality control', though the integration of the computer and robot, particularly in Japan, allowed unprecedented improvements in mass production. In consumer goods, microwave ovens and Cassette tapes surged in popularity, and the first consumer videocassette recorders became available. Genetic engineering became a commercially viable technology.
Universities became friendlier and less authoritarian towards students. This was reflected in the corporate culture of the 1970s, where the hierarchy between supervisor and subordinates became increasingly flat. This had influence in social interaction and family relationship as well. The nuclear family rose to prominence in the first world and the role of women in nuclear families took radical shift from those of earlier generations. With the rise of nuclear family and liberal attitudes towards social structure came new perspectives to child rearing and education. The '70s saw a decline in attendance to boarding schools and a rise of local day schools. The role of the nuclear family and the parent was increasingly noticed and given new impetus. Social norms and laws were increasingly framed in favour of women.
- Main article: 1970s in music
The 1970s saw the rise of experimental classical music and minimalist music by composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Michael Nyman. This was a break from the intellectual serial music of the tradition of Schoenberg which lasted from the early 1900s to 1960s.
Experimental classical music influenced both art rock and progressive rock as well as the punk rock and New Wave genres. Heavy Metal also emerged among British bands Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. In Europe, there was a surge of popularity in the early decade for glam rock. The mid-seventies saw the rise of punk music from its protopunk/garage band roots in the 1960s and early 1970s. Major acts include The Ramones, Blondie, the Sex Pistols, and The Clash. But the biggest hit was Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of The Moon (1973) It remained number 1 for 741 weeks. Aerosmith's hit album Toys in the attic with many hits like Walk this way, Sweet Emotion or Cry me a river hits the charts. The rise of disco music, which first crept into dance clubs in 1979/ early 1980s, however, The first half of the 1970s saw many jazz musicians from the Miles Davis school achieve cross-over success through jazz-rock fusion. In Germany, Manfred Eicher started the ECM label, which quickly made a name for 'chamber jazz'. Towards the end of the decade, Jamaican reggae music, already popular in the Caribbean and Africa since the early 1970s, became very popular in the U.S. and in Europe, mostly because of reggae superstar and legend Bob Marley. The late '70s also saw the beginning of hip hop music with the song Rapper's Delight by Sugarhill Gang. Country music remained very popular in the U.S. In 1977 it became more mainstream after Kenny Rogers became a solo singer and scored many hits on both the country and pop charts.
- Main article: 1970s in film
In 1970s European cinema, the failure of the Prague Spring brought about nostalgic motion pictures such as István Szabó's Szerelmesfilm (1970). German New Wave and Rainer Fassbinder's existential movies characterized film-making in Germany. The movies of the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman reached a new level of expression in motion pictures like Cries and Whispers (1973).
Asian cinema of the 1970s catered to the rising middle class fantasies and struggles. In the Bollywood cinema of India, this was epitomised by the movies of Bollywood superhero Amitabh Bachchan. Another Asian touchstone beginning in the early '70s was traditional Hong Kong martial arts film which sparked a greater interest in Chinese martial arts to the West. Martial arts film reached the peak of its popularity largely in part due to its greatest icon, Bruce Lee.
Hollywood emerged from its early 1970s slump with young film-makers taking greater risks and exploring more adult subject matter in movies such as A Clockwork Orange and The Godfather. The nostalgic Love Story was a huge commercial and critical hit. The 1970s saw a rebirth of the action film with movies like The French Connection. Airport was hugely successful and launched a series of disaster-related films, such as Earthquake. Throughout the seventies, the horror film developed into a lucrative genre of film; notable examples include The Exorcist, The Omen, Halloween, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Blaxploitation also emerged as a genre. Top-grossing Jaws(1975) ushered in the blockbuster era of film-making, though it was eclipsed two years later the science-fiction epic Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977).
- Main article: 1970s in television
In the United Kingdom, color channels were now available; three stations had begun broadcasting in color between 1967 and 1969. Notable UK dramas included Play for Today and Pennies From Heaven. The science fiction show Doctor Who reached its peak. Many popular British situation comedies (sit-coms) were gentle, innocent, unchallenging comedies of middle-class life; typical examples were Terry and June, Sykes, and The Good Life. A more diverse view of society was offered by series like Porridge and Rising Damp. In police dramas there was a move towards increasing realism; popular shows included Dixon of Dock Green, Softly, Softly, and The Sweeney.
In the United States, long-standing trends were declining. The Red Skelton Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, long-revered American institutions, were canceled. The "family sitcom" saw its last breath at the start of the new decade with The Brady Bunch. Television was transformed by what became termed as "social consciousness" programming such as All in the Family, which broke down television barriers. The television western, which had been very popular in the 1960s, slowly died out during the 1970s, with The High Chaparral, The Virginian, and Gunsmoke ending their runs. By the mid- to late 1970s, "jiggle television"--programs centred around sexual gratification and bawdy humor and situations such as Charlie's Angels and Three's Company--became popular. Soap operas expanded their audience beyond housewives with the rise of All My Children and As the World Turns. Game shows such as The Hollywood Squares and Family Feud were also popular daytime television. Another influential genre was the television newscast, which built on its initial widespread success in the 1960s. Finally, the variety show received its last hurrah during this decade, with shows such as The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and Donny & Marie.
- Main article: 1970s in literature
Fiction in the early '70s brought a return to old-fashioned storytelling, especially with Erich Segal's Love Story. The seventies also saw the decline of previously well-respected writers, such as Saul Bellow and Peter De Vries, who both released poorly received novels at the start of the decade. Racism remained a key literary subject. John Updike emerged as a major literary figure. Reflections of the 1960s experience also found roots in the literature of the decade through the works of Joyce Carol Oates and Morris Wright. With the rising cost of hard-cover books and the increasing readership of "genre fiction," the paperback became a popular medium. Criminal non-fiction also became a popular topic. Irreverence and satire, typified in Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, were common literary elements. The horror genre also emerged, and by the late seventies Stephen King had become one of the most popular genre novelists.
In nonfiction, several books related to Nixon and the Watergate scandal topped the best-selling lists. 1977 brought many high-profile biographical works of literary figures, such as those of Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Books discussing sex such as Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask were popular as authors took advantage of the lifted censorship laws on literature in the sixties. Exposés such as All the President's Men were also popular. Self-help and diet books replaced the cookbooks and home fix-it manuals that topped the sixties's charts.
Architecture in the 1970s began as a the continuation of styles created by such architects as Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Early in the decade, several architects competed to build the tallest building in the world. Of these buildings, the most notable are the John Hancock Center and Sears Tower in Chicago, both designed by Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan and the World Trade Center towers that were in New York by Japanese architect Minoru Yamasaki. The decade also brought experimentation in geometric design, pop-art, postmodernism and early deconstructivism.
In 1974, Louis Kahn's last and arguably most famous building, the National Assembly Building of Dhaka, Bangladesh was completed. The building's use of open spaces and groundbreaking geometry brought rare attention to the small southeast Asian country. Hugh Stubbins' Citicorp Center revolutionized the incorporation of solar panels in office buildings. The seventies brought further experimentation in glass and steel construction and geometric design. Chinese architect I. M. Pei's John Hancock Tower in Boston, Massachusetts is an example, although like many buildings of the time, the experimentation was flawed and glass panes fell from the façade. In 1976, the completed CN Tower in Toronto was the world's tallest free-standing structure on land until 2007. The fact that no other tower built between the construction of the CN Tower and the Burj Dubai shows how innovative and unsurpassed the architecture and engineering of the structure truly was.
But modern architecture was increasingly criticized, both from the point of view of postmodern architects such as Philip Johnson, Charles Moore and Michael Graves who advocated a return to pre-modern styles of architecture and the incorporation of pop elements as a means of communicating with a broader public. Other architects, such as Peter Eisenman of the New York Five advocated the pursuit of form for the sake of form and drew on semiotics theory for support.
"High Tech" architecture moved forward as Buckminster Fuller continued his experiments in geodesic domes while the George Pompidou Center, designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, which opened in 1977, was a prominent example. As the decade drew to a close, Frank Gehry broke out in new direction with his own house in Santa Monica, a highly complex structure half-excavated out of an existing bungalow and half cheaply-built construction using materials such as chicken wire fencing.
Social science intersected with hard science in the works in natural language processing by Terry Winograd (1973) and the establishment of the first cognitive sciences department in the world at MIT in 1979. The fields of generative linguistics and cognitive psychology went through a renewed vigour with symbolic modeling of semantic knowledge while the final devastation of the long standing tradition of behaviorism came about through the severe criticism of B.F. Skinner's work in 1971 by the cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky.
- Main article: 1970s in sports
In the 1970s, the renegade sports leagues of the National Basketball Association (founded in 1946), the World Hockey Association (lasting from 1972 through 1979), and the World Series Cricket (lasting from 1977 to 1979) challenged older, established organizations. The "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, who proclaimed the women's game to be inferior, was a turning point in sports during the decade; after King's victory, the match was heralded as a major victory for women in athletics. The 1970s marked a boom in the popularity of distance running, especially in the United States. The 1972 Summer Olympics were marred by terrorism and Cold War-related international controversy. Among the competition's highlights was the performance of swimmer Mark Spitz, who set seven World Records to win a record seven gold medals in one Olympics, bringing his total to nine. The 1976 Summer Olympics were highlighted by the legendary performance of Romanian female gymnast Nadia Comaneci and the strong U.S. boxing team.
Political authoritarianism in Arab and Middle Eastern states, combined with the settlement of the West Bank by Israel after a military victory in Israel's Six-Day-War war of 1967, led to a major increase in Palestinian suicide attacks against Israeli civilians. The Palestinian terror group Black September was involved in aircraft hijackings and a deadly hostage incident at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.
On September 6 1970 the world witnessed the beginnings of modern rebellious fighting in what is today called as Skyjack Sunday. Palestinian terrorists hijacked four airliners and took over 300 people on board as hostage. Later the hostages were released but the planes were exploded in front of world wide media coverage.
The relationship between Egypt and Israel changed dramatically throughout the 1970s.
- Further information: Yom Kippur War
- Further information: Camp David AccordsIn 1975, tensions between Christian and Muslim factions in Lebanon brought that country to civil war, which would continue sporadically for 20 years.
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 transformed Iran from an autocratic pro-west monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to an Islamic, theocratic government under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. Distrust between the revolutionaries and Western powers led to the Iran hostage crisis on November 4, 1979 where 66 diplomats, mainly from the U.S., were held captive. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein began to rise to power by helping to modernize the country. One major initiative was removing the western monopoly on oil which later during the high prices of 1973 oil crisis would help Hussein's ambitious plans. On July 16, 1979 he assumed the presidency cementing his rise to power. His presidency led to the breaking off of a Syrian-Iraqi unification, which had been sought under Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and would later lead to the Iran-Iraq War starting in the 1980s.
Idi Amin became infamous in the seventies for his brutal regime in Uganda. The seventies also witnessed the fall of Haile Selassie and Jean-Bedel Bokassa, and the continuation of apartheid in South Africa (and the death of Steve Biko).
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971/Bangladesh Liberation War/Concert for Bangladesh (relates back to culture), Indian Emergency 1975–1977 Martial law was declared in the Philippines on September 21, 1972 by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos.
The Vietnam War came to a close in the early Seventies with the Paris Peace Accords. Opposition had increased in the United States which led to U.S. withdrawal in the early part of 1973. However, in 1975 North Vietamese forces invaded the South and quickly took over the government breaking the treaty.
In Cambodia the communist leader Pol Pot led a revolution against the American backed government of Lon Nol. On April 17 1975 his forces captured Phnom Penh the capitol, two years after America had halted the bombings of their positions. His communist government, the Khmer Rouge, moved the citizens into communal housing which led to starvation. The estimated death toll in the genocide ranges between 800,000 and 2.3 million. Vietnam invaded the country in 1979 which led to a long ensuing war between the nations.
Japan's economic growth surpassed the rest of the world in the Seventies. The country expanded on the economic growth it received from elaborate building and job growth as a result of the 1964 Summer Olympics, which were held in Tokyo. National Geographic profiled the Japanese work ethic in a March 1974 cover story entitled "Those Successful Japanese!"
With a rise in technology and a more urgent need to commute for salaried jobs, the Shinkansen became an efficient tool for people to travel cross-country in a rather inexpensive and quick manner. The first "bullet train" was opened between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964, with further extension to Fukuoka in 1975. The Tokyo-Osaka line was key in transporting visitors to Expo '70 in Osaka, where Japan showcased its newest technological achievements.
In 1969, Prime Minister Eisaku Sato negotiated with President Richard Nixon to hand over the island of Okinawa on May 15, 1972. The compromise for the handover was that the United States Armed Forces were still allowed to maintain military bases on the island after Okinawa officially became part of Japan. To celebrate the handover, Expo '75 was held at Okinawa, with an oceanographic theme: "The Sea We Would Like to See".
In 1972, Sato, who was Prime Minister since 1964, decided not to run for a fourth three-year term. He was succeeded by Kakuei Tanaka, whose term as Prime Minister would become one of the most infamous in Japan's modern era.
Just as Richard Nixon was resigning from office in the United States, Tanaka was facing a scandal of his own. The Diet was concerned about his business practices (specifically, he used the name of a geisha he frequented on land deeds). The first witness to be called was his secretary, with whom he had a romantic affair. To save face, he resigned his post late in 1974, and was replaced by Takeo Miki. When news of Tanaka's embezzlement of the Lockheed Corporation's funds reached Japan in 1976, Prime Minister Miki pushed for Tanaka's arrest. Tanaka, who had become a Diet member, responded in kind by removing support from his government, causing him to lose his spot as Prime Minister. Tanaka would spend the rest of the decade endorsing and later removing support from Prime Ministers when he felt his best interests were not served.
The emperor and the rest of his family were not well-received when they made public their intentions of their first ever state visit to Europe in the autumn of 1971. When he arrived in London in October, he was granted an audience with Queen Elizabeth, and in a semi-public appearance, Hirohito stopped short of a full apology for Japan's role during World War II. Instead, he pledged solidarity with the United Kingdom in the new era. The reason Hirohito did not fully apologize was due to factions of opposition in Japan, who believed the nation should become feudal once more and close its borders to the West.
After the ritual suicide of writer Yukio Mishima in November 1970, a vocal opposition emerged, shaking Japan's ruling post-war elite. Therefore, it was in Hirohito's best interests not to make a full apology, which would have been the only solution that would have appeased hostile opinion against Japan in Europe. Hirohito's statement was subsequently seen as a slap in the face by many war veterans. Hirohito received an equally unfavorable response when he visited Queen Juliana in Amsterdam in November.
Soviet Union/ Eastern Bloc
The Seventies in the Soviet Union were in a distinct cultural and economic era known as the Brezhnev era, named after the Communist Party Secretary at the time, Leonid Brezhnev, who had been at the helm in the USSR since 1964. The Soviet Union became the world's leading producer in steel, and oil. During this period wages were doubled which led to more focusing on personal lives rather than the traditional "Communist ideal". Despite this growth, inflation continued to grow for the second straight decade, and production consistently fell short of demand in agriculture and manufacturing. The USSR began to import grain from the United States, which expanded production "fence row to fence row". Consumer goods remained hard to get.
In People's Republic of Poland, the seventies were the Gierek decade, when under the leadership of Edward Gierek massive loans were channeled into raising the people's standard of living. On 16 October 1978 an event that would shape not only Poland's fate but that of the entire world took place: Karol Wojtyła, a Polish cardinal, was elected Pope, becoming Pope John Paul II.
In 1971, Erich Honecker was chosen to lead the German Democratic Republic, a role he would fill for the whole of the 1970s and 1980s. The mid-1970s were a time of extreme recession for East Germany, and as a result of the country's higher debts, consumer goods became more and more scarce. If East Germans had enough money to procure a television set, a telephone, or a Trabant automobile, they were placed on waiting lists which caused them to wait as much as a decade for the item in question.
Enver Hoxha's rule in Albania was characterized in the 1970s by growing isolation, first from a very public schism with the Soviet Union the decade before, and then by a split in friendly relations with China in 1978. Albania normalized relations with Marshal Tito's Yugoslavia in 1971, and attempted trade agreements with other European nations, but was met with vocal disapproval by the governments in Washington, D.C. and London.
At the start of the decade, President Richard Nixon proved to be popular with the American people, in that he sent the last American troops from Vietnam, and took the first steps to normalizing relations with China and the Soviet Union, both of which he visited in 1972. Nixon started the process known as détente when he joined the SALT I talks and eventually signed the treaty with Leonid Brezhnev. His high approval ratings led him to be overwhelmingly re-elected in the 1972 election against George McGovern. However, the Watergate scandal erupted soon after which put the entire Nixon administration in jeopardy. Nixon became the first President to resign his post, in 1974, and received a pardon for his involvement in the scandal by new President Gerald Ford later that year, a move which was seen by many as unfavorable.
Ford's pardoning of Nixon, coupled with economic troubles felt by nearly every segment of the American population, cost him the 1976 election, in which he was soundly beaten by Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer and former Governor of Georgia. One of the key events that turned the tide in Carter's favor was an embarrassing blunder on Ford's part, in which he said during a live, televised presidential debate, that Eastern Europe was not under the domination of the Soviet Union. Carter's more personable style resonated with the majority of voters.
Carter did not have any more luck than Ford had in curbing stagflation, as economists had termed it. Carter tried to address the price of imported oil and the subsequent energy dilemmas by creating the United States Department of Energy, but his efforts were largely unsuccessful, leading to the 1979 energy crisis, which was also felt in other parts of the world. Carter's leadership was also challenged abroad, with the aforementioned Iran hostage crisis, arguably the biggest blow to Carter's administration. The hostages were only released when Ronald Reagan took the oath of office on January 20, 1981, succeeding Carter.
The continuing rise of inner-city poverty and crime rates, the Watergate scandal, defeatism in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, stagflation, the hardships of economic recession, the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979, and the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979, were just some of the several problems that plagued America in the 1970s. As the economy slipped, the use of recreational drugs increased and mistrust in the American government among blue collar workers grew. In addition, many began to fear purported cults such as the Children of God.
In 1970, the Conservative Party was brought to power under the leadership of Edward Heath. Heath's term was plagued with a number of strikes by nearly every profession (in 1972 alone, nearly 24 million working days were lost due to strikes). His plan to ration electricity for businesses and factories to a mere three days in the work week starting in January 1974 proved almost universally unpopular. In February, miners, with the support of the rail and power unions, went out on strike. Heath called a general election to gauge support, which led to his narrow loss.
Labour was voted back in again, under Harold Wilson, who had led the country from 1964 to 1970. When Wilson retired from the post in 1976, former Chancellor of the Exchequer James Callaghan took over the office. However, failure to assuage the growing energy problem, coupled with rising inflation and unemployment, paved the way for a Tory win in 1979, under Margaret Thatcher's guidance. The world first took notice of Thatcher in 1975 when she became the first woman leader of the Tories; she was subsequently featured on the cover on TIME. Thatcher's rise to Prime Minister, at the tail end of the Seventies, ushered in a new era of change that would become the trademark of what the Eighties represented throughout the world.
During the Seventies, support for the British royal family was thought to have dwindled, but the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 1977 assuaged the family's fears of being irrelevant in a more modern Britain. Elaborate parades and street parties were thrown in the Queen's honour, and the Queen met with millions of her subjects on a tour throughout the Commonwealth. In spite of such widespread support, an emerging class of people voiced opposition to the monarchy, epitomized in the Sex Pistols' song "God Save the Queen". About two thousand people died in political violence between the police, British army and paramilitary groups during the seventies.
Hong Kong stepped on its way to evolving into an international financial centre in the 1970s. During this period, the promotion of social welfare improved the living standard of Hong Kong people, at the same time attracting foreign investments into this city.
In Australia, the seventies was a defining decade. After 23 years of rule under various Coalition Prime Ministers, the Labor Party under Gough Whitlam was elected under the slogan "It's Time", a group of people singing for the end of the Coalition government. Whitlam brought sweeping education reforms including free University places, and Medibank (later Medicare), the first fully public hospital system. The Whitlam government was also pro-multicultrual and supported greater immigration during their term.
However, after all of Whitlam's social reforms, the government was nearly broke. The Coalition under Malcolm Fraser took advantage of a newly-acquired majority in the Senate and drove the public service to near bankruptcy by refusing to allow the passage of money bills through the Senate. In response, Whitlam was controversially dismissed as Prime Minister by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr during the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.
Despite these moves, Fraser toed a not too dissimilar line of politics, despite predictions of the conservative Murdoch press and his party. He did make cuts to public spending to reign in inflation and the defecits caused by the Whitlam government. He also formed Medibank Private to reduce the strain in the public hospital system. However, he introduced Special Broadcasting Service to ensure a multicultural representation on TV, and supported the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
Timeline of military invasions in the 1970s
- 1978: Israel invades Lebanon to push PLO forces north of the Litani River.
- 1979: USSR invades Afghanistan
- Decade nostalgia
- That '70s Show
- I Love the '70s — A BBC (UK) and VH1 (U.S.) Television program
- MTV's The 70s House
- Burrows, Terry. ITV's Visual History of the Twentieth Century. London: Carlton Books Ltd., 1999. 350–419.
- Crosby, Alfred W. (1995). "The Past and Present of Environmental History". The American Historical Review 100 (4), 1177–1189