Want to understand the 1980s? Look to Delia Smith, not Margaret Thatcher, says TV historian

Delia Smith back in the 1980s.

Delia Smith back in the 1980s. - Credit: BBC

A television presenter, a best-selling author cookery author and the joint majority shareholder of Norwich City Football Club.

Margaret Thatcher. Pic: PA Wire

Margaret Thatcher. Pic: PA Wire - Credit: PA

But Delia Smith is so much more than that, at least if you buy into a theory put forward by historian Dominic Sandbrook.

For, in his new television series, he argues that Delia, rather than prime minister Margaret Thatcher, is the real embodiment of the revolution which took place in Britain in the 1980s.

While the decade has become synonymous with the Iron Lady, who swept to power in 1979 and stayed there until 1990, Sandbrook makes the case that to really understand how life was reshaped during that era, it is Delia and the influence of her enormously popular cookery programme, which should be examined.

In the introduction to the first episode of BBC 2 series The 80s With Dominic Sandbrook, he teases audiences with the words: 'By 1979 one woman had become a regular fixture on our television screens, as she lectured the nation in her distinctive clipped tones.


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'Cool, capable and always impeccably groomed, this was a woman on a mission, determined to drag Britain kicking and screaming into the new decade and what she inspired was little short of a revolution.'

With those watching perhaps expecting he was referring to the country's first woman prime minister, the programme instead cuts to footage of Delia welcoming viewers to her cookery course.

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Sandbrook said: 'I think Delia is the key to understanding what really happened to Britain in the 1980s'.

He argues while Mrs Thatcher mattered, she was more of a responder to events, rather than a driver of them. He says the real revolution came about because of changes in how we ate, where we lived, where we shopped and what we watched - with Delia at the vanguard of the shift.

He said: 'This was a revolution embodied not by Margaret Thatcher, but by Delia Smith and millions like her.'

She offered Britain, he says: 'Aspiration and inspiration, perfectly designed to suit the everyday rhythms of everyday life.'

• The 80s with Dominic Sandbrook can be seen on the BBC iPlayer.

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