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The Presidency of Ronald Reagan, 1981-89

3. Social Change

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the extent to which Reagan's policies effected social change in America in the 1980s, focusing in particular on: (i) the range of (long-term) forces that effect social change, and the relatively limited impact that a single president can have; (ii) the rise in income inequality in the 1980s after more than fifty years of the income distribution becoming more equal in American society; (iii) the key reasons for the increase in income inequality: the decline in manufacturing, the financialization of the economy, and the weakening of trade unions, etc.; (iv) the extent to which Reagan facilitated the growth of evangelical Christianity in this period; (v) the changing role of women in this period: Reagan's nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor as the first female justice of the US Supreme Court, his popularity with women at the ballot box; (vi) his views on immigration; and (vii) his record on race relations.


In this course, Professor Iwan Morgan (University College, London) explores the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-89). In the first module, we think about Reagan's handling of the economy, focusing in particular on the shift away from the economic orthodoxy of the past fifty years to adopt supply-side economics and monetarism. After that, we think about Reagan's attempts to reduce government spending, before turning in the third module to consider his impact on American culture and society. In the fourth module, we think about the broad political changes that took place during Reagan's administration, before turning in the fifth and final module to consider the extent to which Reagan restored the prestige of an office that had been diminished by Vietnam, Watergate, and the underwhelming administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.


Iwan Morgan is Professor of US Studies at the Institute of the Americas, University College London, and also holds an honorary position as Commonwealth Fund Chair of American History in the UCL Department of History.

Professor Morgan is a distinguished fellow of the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford. He was awarded the British Association of American Studies Honorary Fellowship in 2014 in recognition of his contributions to the discipline over the course of his career; his work The Age of Deficits (Kansas University Press, 2009), won the American Politics Group's 2010 Richard Neustadt Book Prize.

Professor Morgan has published widely in various fields of modern US political history and in political economy. Much of his work has a presidential focus. He is director of the United States Presidency Centre. He was also chair of the executive committee of the Historians of the Twentieth Century United States from 2007 to 2013. He was a member of the executive committee of the British Association of American Studies in 2009-2012.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Morgan, I. (2021, March 05). The Presidency of Ronald Reagan, 1981-89 - Social Change [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Morgan, I. "The Presidency of Ronald Reagan, 1981-89 – Social Change." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Mar 2021,