This article is about the decade 1970-1979. For the year 1970, see 1970.

The 1970s is a decade of the Gregorian calendar.

In the western world, social progressive values that began in the 1960s continued to grow including increasing political awareness and political and economic liberty of women. The hippie culture, which started in the 1960s, continued in the early 1970s and faded towards the middle part of the decade, which involved opposition to the Vietnam War, opposition to nuclear weapons, the advocacy of world peace, and hostility to the authority of government. The environmentalist movement began to increase dramatically in this period. Western countries experienced an economic recession due to oil crisis caused by oil embargoes by Arab countries in the Middle East, while Japan's economy boomed. The crisis saw the first instance of stagflation which began a political and economic trend of the replacement of Keynesian economic theory with neoliberal economic theory, with the first neoliberal government being created in the United Kingdom with election of the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

In Asia, affairs regarding the People's Republic of China changed significantly following the recognition of the PRC by the United Nations, the death of Mao Zedong and the beginning of market liberalization by Mao's successors. The economy of Japan witnessed a large boom in this period. The United States' withdrew its military forces from their previous involvement in Vietnam which had grown enormously unpopular in the United States. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan which led to an ongoing war for ten years. The 1970s saw an initial increase in violence in the Middle East as Egypt and Syria declared war on Israel, but in the late 1970s, the situation in the Middle East was fundamentally altered when Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel which was followed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat being assassinated. Political tensions in Iran exploded with the Iranian Revolution which overthrew the Iranian monarchy and established an Islamic theocracy in Iran.

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.

Worldwide trends

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. Some defining points of the 1970s were the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 and the subsequent oil shock of 1973, the economic strain caused by the rapid increase in the price of oil and its influence on the Bretton Woods system of international economic stabilisation, and the effect of the contraceptive pill on social dynamics.

Developing nations that were rich in oil experienced economic growth; others, not so endowed, saw the economic strain of oil price hikes lead to economic decline, particularly in Africa where a number of moderately democratic states became dictatorial regimes. Many Middle Eastern democracies crumbled into chaotic regimes with pseudo-democratic governments. Several Asian countries also saw the rise of dictators, including South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia.

As well, people were influenced by the rapid pace of societal change and the aspiration for a more egalitarian society in cultures that were long colonised 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 food 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 in industrialised societies. More women could enter the work force. However, the gender role of men remained as that of a bread-winner. The period also saw the socioeconomic effect of an ever-increasing number of women entering the non-agrarian economic workforce. The Iranian revolution also affected global attitudes to and among those of the Muslim faith 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, in a world increasingly polarised between the United States and the Soviet Union.


The 1970s were 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 U.S. 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 a growing inability to increase agricultural output caused growing concern to the governments of the COMECON block, and a growing dependence on food imported from Western nations.

Oil crisis

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 and weekends. 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.

Social movements


The 1970s started a mainstream affirmation of the environmental issues early activists from the 1960s, 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.


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.

No-Fault divorce laws paved the way for increased divorce rates, as depicted in the movie Irreconcilable Differences, and divorce became widely acceptable in western countries.

Science and technology

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.


Role of women in society

The role of women in society was profoundly altered with growing feminism across the world and with the presence and rise of a significant number of women as heads of state outside of monarchies and heads of government in a number of countries across the world during the 1970s, many being the first women to hold such positions. Non-monarch women heads of state and heads of government in this period included Isabel Martínez de Perón as the first woman President in Argentina and the first woman non-monarch head of state in the Western hemisphere in 1974 until being deposed in 1976, Elisabeth Domitien becomes the first woman Prime Minister of the Central African Republic, Indira Gandhi continuing as Prime Minister of India until 1977, Lidia Gueiler Tejada becoming the interim President of Bolivia beginning from 1979 to 1980, Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo becoming the first woman Prime Minister of Portugal in 1979, and Margaret Thatcher becoming the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1979. Both Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher would remain important political figures in the following decade in the 1980s.


The early 1970s saw the rise of popular soft rock music, with such legendary recording artists as Elton John, James Taylor, John Denver, The Eagles, America, Chicago, and The Doobie Brothers as well as the further rise of such popular, influential rhythm and blues (R&B) artists as multi-instrumentalist Stevie Wonder and the popular quintet The Jackson 5. The mid-1970s besides the ever present Grateful Dead , also saw the rise of disco music, which dominated popular music during the last half of the decade. In response to this, rock music became increasingly hard edged with artists such as Led Zeppelin, . Minimalism also emerged, lead 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. Hard rock and Heavy Metal also emerged among British bands Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest. Australian band AC/DC also found its hard rock origins in the early 1970s. 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, Patti Smith, the Sex Pistols, and The Clash. The highest-selling album was Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon (1973). It remained on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart for 741 weeks. The rise of Disco music occurred in the late 1970s; 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


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. Top-grossing Jaws(1975) ushered in the blockbuster era of film-making, though it was eclipsed two years later by the science-fiction epic Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977).


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 and The Partridge Family. Television was transformed by what became termed as "social consciousness" programming such as All in the Family, which broke down television barriers. With the women's movement reflected in new shows about single women in 'traditionally male' careers, such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Police Woman and others. The television western, which had been very popular in the 1960s, died out during the 1970s, with Bonanza, The Virginian, and Gunsmoke ending their runs. By the mid- to late 1970s, "jiggle television"--programs centered 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 Match Game, The Hollywood Squares and Family Feud were also popular daytime television. Match Game was wildly popular during its run from 1973 to 1982, and the height of its popularity occurred between 1973 and 1977 before being taken over by Family Feud in 1978. Television's current longest-running game show, The Price is Right began its run hosted by Bob Barker in 1972. 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.


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 Always 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' 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 became the world's tallest free-standing structure on land, an honor it held until 2007. The fact that no taller tower had been built between the construction of the CN Tower and the Burj Dubai shows how innovative 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

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.


In the 1970s, the renegade sports leagues of the American Basketball Association (founded in 1967), 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.

Interest in exercise for health and appearance, independent of sports training, increased during the 1970s: there was a boom in the popularity of distance running, especially in the United States. Bodybuilding also received mainstream attention after the release of the documentary Pumping Iron.

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.

International issues


  • Idi Amin, President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, after rising to power in a coup becomes infamous for his brutal dictatorship in Uganda. Amin's regime persecutes opposition to his rule, pursues a racist agenda of removing Asians from Uganda (particularly Indians who arrived in Uganda during British colonial rule). Amin intiates the Ugandan–Tanzanian War in 1978 in alliance with Libya based on an expansionist agenda to annex territory from Tanzania which results in Ugandan defeat and Amin's overthrow in 1979.
  • The Angolan Civil War begins in 1975, resulting in intervention by multiple countries on the Marxist and anti-Marxist sides, with Cuba and Mozambique supporting the Marxist faction while South Africa and Zaire support the anti-Marxists.
  • Haile Selassie is overthrown from power in Ethiopia, ending one of the world's longest lasting monarchies in history.
  • The death of Steve Biko.




  • In 1971, Erich Honecker was chosen to lead East Germany, 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.
  • The 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany witness the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian Arab nationalist militants of the Black September terrorist organization.
  • Growing internal tensions take place in Yugoslavia beginning with the Croatian Spring movement in 1971 which demands greater decentralization of power to the constituent republics of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia's communist ruler Joseph Broz Tito subdues the Croatian Spring movement and arrests its leaders, but does initiate major constitutional reform resulting in the 1974 Constitution which decentralized powers to the republics, gave them the official right to separate from Yugoslavia, and weakened the influence of Serbia (Yugoslavia's largest and most populous constituent republic) in the federation by granting significant powers to the Serbian autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. In addition, the 1974 Constitution consolidated Tito's dictatorship by proclaiming him president-for-life. The 1974 Constitution would become resented by Serbs and began a gradual escalation of ethnic tensions.
  • 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 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.
  • On 16 October 1978, Karol Wojtyła, a Polish cardinal, was elected Pope, becoming Pope Pope John Paul II after the sudden death of Pope John Paul I. John Paul II would become a highly popular Pope and was known for challenging the authoritarian nature of communism, especially in his home country of Poland.
  • The Soviet Union under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev, the country pursues an agenda to lessen tensions with its rival superpower, the United States, while beginning the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979. The Soviet Union becomes the world's leading producer in steel, and oil in the decade. Despite this growth, inflation continued to grow for the second straight decade, and production consistently fell short of demand in agriculture and manufacturing.
  • Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative party rise to power in the United Kingdom in 1979, initiating a neoliberal economic policy of reducing government spending, weakening the power of trade unions, and promoting economic and trade liberalization.


  • 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

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