It was the year of the Falklands War, when Bucks Fizz were topping the charts and Del Boy and Rodney’s wheeler-dealer antics kept Britons glued to their televisions.
But 1982 was also the year that inflation was at 9.1 per cent, a level that would remain unmatched until today’s headline figure of 9 per cent.
The Bank of England even expects that the rate will climb further to a peak of 10.25 per cent in the final quarter of this year, sparking the biggest squeeze in incomes in decades.
Britain’s Prime Minister in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher, had swept into office in 1979 just after the industrial unrest of the ‘Winter of Discontent’, which had been marked by widespread strikes and rampant pay demands from greedy trade union bosses.
The high levels of inflation during Mrs Thatcher’s early years in office were a by-product of the economic chaos of the 1970s.
In 1975, inflation had peaked at more than 25 per cent, causing the prices of ordinary goods to rise rapidly.
Mrs Thatcher was elected on a mandate that included a promise to tame inflation. That 9.1 per cent figure of 1982 – which came in March – was in fact far lower than the spring 1980 level. Then, it reached the equivalent by today’s standards of nearly 18 per cent.
Her method of getting inflation under control – hiking interest rates to an excruciating 17 per cent – was successful, with levels plummeting to below five per cent in the mid-1980s, but it came at the cost of pushing unemployment to beyond 4 million.
The PM’s government, which included the tough-talking Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit and Chancellor Geoffrey Howe, also introduced curbs on public spending which, although effective in further pushing down inflation, also caused further social unrest.
The last time the level of inflation went beyond nine per cent, in March 1982, Margaret Thatcher was in her fourth year as Prime Minister. Above: The then PM on a visit to China in 1982
Only Fools And Horses were popular on British TV, along with other shows such as This Is Your Life and Coronation Street. Above: Nicholas Lyndhurst as Rodney, David Jason (centre) as Del Boy and Lennard Pearce as Grandad
Bucks Fizz topped the charts twice with their singles The Land of Make Believe and My Camera Never Lies. Above: The band performing in 1982
The legacy of the high inflation of the early 1980s stretched as far back as a decade previously, when surging oil prices, an international energy crisis and strikes and wage demands by unions had caused economic turmoil.
The social historian Dominic Sandbrook has documented how the unrest of the 1970s peaked with the 1979 Winter of Discontent, when bin bags heaped high in London’s Leicester Square after refuse workers went on strike.
In October 1973, the OPEC cartel – which was dominated by Arab producers – raised the price of oil by 17 per cent in retaliation for the West’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
The move prompted inflation to tear through the economy and led to the the Prime Minister Edward Heath declaring a three-day week, as strikes by coal miners led to a drastic shortage of energy.
When Heath was turfed out of office after calling an election in which he asked ‘Who governs Britain?’, his Labour successor Harold Wilson was then faced with an even worse situation..
By the spring of 1975, prices in the UK were rising five times faster than in Europe.
Sandbrook highlights how, in just a year, the price of sugar went up by 184 per cent, carrots by 137 per cent and electricity by 66 per cent.
But, terrified of further crippling strikes that had already brought the country to a halt, ministers were still agreeing to huge pay increases for workers, a factor that contributed further to inflation.
Mrs Thatcher’s popularity levels – which had been dangerously low – were boosted by Britain’s victory over Argentina in the Falklands War
Mrs Thatcher was elected on a mandate that included a promise to tame inflation. The PM’s government included the tough-talking Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit and Chancellor Geoffrey Howe
Whilst Wilson and his successor Callaghan brought inflation down to single figures in 1978 by persuading the unions to accept reduced pay deals, the situation worsened once again late that year, when lorry drivers went on strike to demand higher wages.
The Winter of Discontent saw ports, petrol stations and supermarkets paralysed as supply chains ground to a halt.
With Callaghan hamstrung by an apparent inability to get the situation under control, Mrs Thatcher won the 1979 election on the back of a programme that promised to fix the situation.
Mrs Thatcher’s economic programme also included a shift from centralised, state-controlled institutions to privatisation and economic reform.
Big British names that were privatised included British Telecom and airline British Airways.
But her policies led to brutal divisions in the country, as they boosted the service sector and home ownership but led to the decline of manufacturing and industries such as coal mining and steel making.
In 1982, the year of the 9.1 per cent inflation figure, NHS staff went on strike over pay in September. With nurses campaigning for a 12 per cent pay rise, the three-day strike shook the health service
Rail workers also went on strike in 1982. Above: Workers on a picket line outside east London’s Stratford freight terminal
The social historian Dominic Sandbrook has documented how the unrest of the 1970s peaked with the 1979 Winter of Discontent, when bin bags heaped high in London’s Leicester Square after refuse workers went on strike
The introduction of high interest rates and tough public spending curbs ultimately led to a recession and the rise in unemployment that the 1980s are famous for.
The Government hoped to reduce the amount of money in circulation by simultaneously cutting spending and raising indirect taxes.
Inflation did start to come down, but not before the UK economy spent the whole of 1980 and early 1981 in recession.
In 1982, the unemployment rate stood at 10.4 per cent, the highest for 50 years, compared with 3.7 per cent today.
The basic rate of income tax was 30 per cent, 10 percentage points higher than where it is now, while the standard rate of VAT was 15%, five points lower than the current rate.
The unemployment hit hardest in Northern Ireland, where one in five people were out of work in the early 1980s.
However, the industrial areas of northern England and Scotland also suffered.
In 1982, the year of the 9.1 per cent inflation figure, NHS staff went on strike over pay in September. With nurses campaigning for a 12 per cent pay rise, the three-day strike shook the health service.
Three months earlier, Welsh miners in South Wales downed tools in support of health service workers. In total, around 24,000 miners stopped working, with thousands marching through Cardiff.
But Mrs Thatcher’s popularity levels – which had been dangerously low – had by then been boosted by Britain’s victory over Argentina in the Falklands War.
The nation was also buoyed by the birth of Prince William, with Princess Diana and Prince Charles pictured beaming outside St Mary’s Hospital in London.
Mrs Thatcher’s brutal battle with Arthur Scargill, the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, came in 1984, after ministers forced through proposals to close 20 uneconomic pits, putting 20,000 miners out of work.
Within a week of the first miners going on strike, in March, more than half of the country’s miners had downed tools.
But the Conservative government held out and even though the dispute lasted more than a year, the miners eventually returned to work and the pit closure programme continued.
The popular quiz show made its debut in 1982, after Channel 4 had been launched. Above: Carol Voerderman (top right) with Kenneth Williams and Richard Whiteley
Musicians Paul Weller (left) and Bruce Foxton, of the group The Jam, perform onstage, Chicago, Illinois, May 26, 1982. The Jam made it to the top of the UK singles chart with their hits Town Called Malice and Precious
Ozzy Osborne infamously bit the head off a bat after it was thrown on stage and he believed it was a rubber version rather than an actual creature
Only Fools And Horses stars David Jason, Lennard Pearce and Nicholas Lyndhurst are seen in a scene from series 2 of the hit show
The IRA also carried out bomb attacks in 1982, with the most infamous being the blasts in Hyde Park and Regents Park that left eight soldiers and several horses dead
Margaret Thatcher is seen after making her speech at the 1982 Conservative Party conference. The PM’s popularity was boosted by success in the Falklands War
On a cultural level, 1982 will be remembered for the popularity of pop group Bucks Fizz and the now-legendary television show Only Fools And Horses.
Bucks Fizz topped the charts twice with their singles The Land of Make Believe and My Camera Never Lies, whilst the likes of The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me were also popular.
All large shops were closed on Sundays by law, and many closed for a half a day on Wednesdays.
British Telecom was still then publicly owned, meaning the entire telephone system was run by the state.
The UK’s gas, electricity, coal and water industries were all in public hands, along with the Royal Mail, British Rail, British Airways, British Steel, BP, Rolls-Royce and British Leyland (later known as the Rover Group).
The population had only four UK-wide radio stations to enjoy – Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 – and just three television channels to choose between, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV, though Channel 4 would launch later that year in November.
Breakfast television had yet to begin, so BBC1 and ITV did not typically start broadcasting on a weekday until lunchtime, while BBC2 filled most of its daytime schedule with programmes for the Open University.
Around 14 million households watched television on colour sets, while four million still watched in black and white.
As well as Only Fools And Horses, the most popular TV programmes in March were This Is Your Life and Coronation Street – both on ITV and both of which attracted audiences of around 17 million.
Even after Mrs Thatcher’s radical changes to the economy, inflation had still climbed back to 8 per cent by the time of her final year in office in 1990.
The most infamous example of rampant inflation, in Weimar Germany in the 1920s, far outstrips the levels seen in the UK today.
The cost of war debts and reparations paid to Allied forces including Britain had caused the economy to collapse. Whilst a loaf of bread had cost 160marks in 1922, it cost 200,000,000,000 marks a year later.
And whilst ten years earlier you needed 12 marks to buy a pair of shoes, by November 1923 the average German needed 32,000,000,000,000 marks.
The inflation led to the savings of ordinary Germans being wiped out overnight.