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The Cultural Left and the Reagan Era: US Protest and Central American Revolution

The Cultural Left and the Reagan Era: US Protest and Central American Revolution
Nick Witham

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The Reagan era is usually seen as an era of unheralded prosperity, and as a high-watermark of Republican success. President Ronald Reagan's belief in "Reaganomics", his media-friendly sound-bites and "can do" personality have come to define the era. However, this was also a time of domestic protest and unrest. Under Reagan the US was directly involved in the revolutions which were sweeping the Central Americas- El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -and in Nicaragua Reagan armed the Contras who fought the Sandinistas. This book seeks to show how the left within the US reacted and protested against these events. The Nation, Verso Books and the Guardian exploded in popularity, riding high on the back of popular anti-interventionist sentiment in America, while the film-maker Oliver Stone led a group of directors making films with a radical left-wing message. The author shows how the1980s in America were a formative cultural period for the anti-Reaganites as well as the Reaganites, and in doing so charts a new history.

Author Info

Nick Witham is Senior Lecturer in American Social and Cultural History at Canterbury Christ Church University and the author of several articles on filmmakers, writers and left-wing politics in 1980s America


'Everyone who wants to learn the whole story of ‘the Reagan era’ needs to read Nick Witham’s outstanding book. This is a deeply knowledgeable and politically sophisticated – and very finely written – excavation of multiple forms of American cultural production that resisted US policy toward Central America in the 1980s. It’s a tour de force.'
Doug Rossinow, author of The Reagan Era: A History of the 1980s

'This transnational intellectual history of the US left and its relationship to the Central American conflicts of the late twentieth century brings new insight to the notion of ‘solidarity’, which is too often taken as a simple slogan rather than a complex and creative process of understanding through bonding. Nick Witham’s study possesses a rare blend of politico-cultural engagement, fresh factual research, and fine analytical nuance – all across a range of media.'
James Dunkerley, Queen Mary University of London

'Nick Witham has opened up the American Left of the 1980s, showing how engagement with revolutionary processes in the other Americas prompted a flowering of thought and culture at odds with the mythology of the Reagan Revolution. ‘Si Nicaragua Vencio, El Salvador Vencera!’'
Van Gosse, author of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America and the Making of a New Left

'When Ronald Reagan occupied the White House in the 1980s, he hoped to restore the 1950s, but he was stymied, at least in part, by a broad and popular opposition that kept alive the spirit of the 1960s, recast in punk leather and spiky haircuts.  Nick Witham’s welcome exploration of the cultural radicalism inspired by the Central American revolutions in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s reminds us of how even in a time of conservative backwash, the aspiration of international solidarity continued to animate dissenting American social thought in the very last decade of the Cold War.'
Christopher Phelps, University of Nottingham

'Nick Witham superbly explores the cultural, intellectual, and political history of the Left during the Reagan era.  His pioneering book is the first to highlight the wider significance of Central American solidarity movements in the US.  An important work of scholarship and an enjoyable read.'
Daniel Geary, Trinity College Dublin

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Library of Modern American History

ISBN: 9781784531966
Publication Date: 29 Jun 2015
Number of Pages: 320
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 8 bw integrated, 2 maps

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