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The Presidency of Ronald Reagan, 1981-89

2. The Economy

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In this module, we think about the impact of Reagan’s economic policies, focusing in particular on: (i) the high levels of income tax in the post-war period and its impact on the young Ronald Reagan; (ii) the influence of the economist Arthur Laffer on Reagan’s thinking about tax rates; (iii) the extent to which Reaganomics represented a departure from Keynesianism; (iv) the impact of Reagan’s economic policies on the deficit and national debt, GDP, and after-tax incomes; (v) the negative social impact of Reagan’s economic policies; and (vi) the ways in which historians have assessed Reagan’s economic policies, including Iwan Morgan’s Reagan: American Icon (2016), Doug Rossinow’s The Reagan Era (2015)


In this course, Dr James Cooper (York St John University) explores the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-89). After a brief introduction in which we think about Reagan’s legacy today, the subsequent five modules explore five key questions relating to his presidency: (1) How successful were Reagan’s economic policies? To what extent were the benefits spread fairly across American society?; (2) To what extent did Reagan reduce ‘big government’?; (3) What was the nature and extent of social change during Reagan’s presidency?; (4) To what extent did Reagan ‘revitalise’ the presidency and US politics in general?; and (5) How successful was Reagan’s foreign policy?


James Cooper is Senior Lecturer at York St John University, specialising in American history and Anglo-American relations. His recent publications include Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan: A Very Political Special Relationship (2012) and The Politics of Diplomacy: U.S. Presidents and the Northern Ireland Conflict, 1967-98 (2017).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cooper, J. (2019, November 17). The Presidency of Ronald Reagan, 1981-89 - The Economy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cooper, J. "The Presidency of Ronald Reagan, 1981-89 – The Economy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 17 Nov 2019,

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