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Maps and Cityscapes
People and the Humanities


Reagan gives a televised address from the Oval Office, outlining his plan for Tax Reduction Legislation in July of 1981. Photo courtesy of the Reagan Library.

June 12, 1987, at the Brandenburg Gate, "Tear down this wall" was the famous challenge from President Ronald Reagan to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall. White House Photographic Office.

North's mugshot, after his arrest
North secretly diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras millions of dollars in funds received from a secret deal - the sales of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, as National Security Council member.

This week we turn to the politics and economics of the 1980s. In the Lecture, Professor Mayer discusses the decline of liberalism and rise of neo-liberalism and social change in the decade. He also examines the success or failure of the Reagan era and politics, social climate, and economics in the Northwest.

Maps & Cityscapes presents political cartoons, 1980 election results, and references for downtown riverfront revitalization efforts in Tacoma and Porlland, while Tribal Perspectives examines tribal sovereignty and gaming.

People and the Humanities looks at the rise of heavy metal music and the influence of the pairing of Aerosmith and Run-DMC in the 1986 recording of “Walk this Way.” We also discuss Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the founders of Apple computers. The Research section presents our top reading and viewing picks for this topic, as well as recommended web resources.

Assignment suggestions for this week’s content include:

  • We tend to think of the 1980s as a time of glitz, materialism and over-consumption. What was happening politically and economically that set the stage for a cultural obsession with possessions?
  • Because it is often about things or popular culture, the culture of the 1980s is often dismissed as frivolous and vapid. Is this a fair assessment of the decade?
  • Reagan is often vilified or adored, depending on your political stance. How successful was his administration? What is his legacy? Why are conservative candidates now wishing to associate themselves with his image?
  • What is the source of the term “Reaganomics?” What about “trickle down economics?” Can we as historians use them in a fair discussion of Reagan’s policies?
  • What happened to the New Deal coalition during the 1980s? How much did it collapse? Where is it today?