Home Decades 1990s The 1990s

The 1990s

The recession of 1990, after the boom of the 1980s, provided a rather inauspicious beginning to the new decade. By the end of the year, unemployment was up, sales of new homes were down by a whopping 17.5 per cent, and economists were forecasting more of the same for 1991.

New Labour ended 18 years of Conservative rule in 1997, and Hong Kong – a British colony since 1842 – was returned to China.

War was in the headlines again when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and the atrocities in Yugoslavia appeared to know no bounds. There was genocide in Rwanda, an uprising in Chechnya and a humanitarian crisis in Somalia.

But the possibility of peace in the Middle East and Northern Ireland came closer.

Dunblane, Columbine and Waco were scenes of carnage, Omagh and Oklahoma fell victim to bomb outrages, Nelson Mandela went from prisoner to president, Germany was reunited and Britain drew closer to Europe when the Channel Tunnel rail service began in 1995.

Tragic deaths shocked the UK: in 1996 school children and teachers were gunned down in Dunblane, Scotland, and in 1999 the television presenter Jill Dando was shot dead outside her home. The biggest shock of all was undoubtedly the news that Princess Diana had been killed in a car accident on 1 September 1997.

Britons rioted over the Poll Tax, worried about catching “mad cow” disease and Posh & Becks took over as the golden couple – and we could read about them on the Internet as well as the celebrity magazines.