1968 : Year of Revolutions

Some people remember 1968 with affection, thinking about an era of free love, rock music and student uprisings. Others view it with a rather cold eye; for them it recalls the worst of times: 

the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War, the launch of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the crushing of the Prague Spring.   If you would like to make your own judgement, there are a number of good websites available to help you make up your mind.  

BBC Radio 4 has one entitled 1968: Myth or Reality which uses sound archive and news footage to give a vivid sense of the period. If you were around at the time, you can add your memories to their Memoryshare section.

If your interest is in the events in the United States ‘The Whole World Was Watching’ is an oral history created by South Kingstown High School and Brown University’s Scholarly Technology Group. It covers the work of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Campaign, the Women’s Rights Movement and the American involvement with the Vietnam War. The Black Civil Rights movement inspired a similar movement in Northern Ireland; to find out about the Civil Rights march in Derry, October 5th 1968 and other major events in the history of the Troubles, consult the CAIN web service (Conflict Archive on the INternet)

There is a rich store of recent newspaper articles on the subject available from Nexis UK  A particularly interesting essay was written by  historian Timothy Garton Ash in ‘The Guardian’ on May 8th 2008 which had an unusual take on the subject – ‘1968 and 1989: a tale of two revolutions’ A memory of having seen an improvised poster in a Prague shop window in 1989 which “showed  68 spun through 180 degrees to read 89” starts him reflecting on the comparisons between the two anniversaries: He concludes that there is no group from 1989 to compare with the glamorous movements of 1968 but it may be that the revolutions of the late nineteen eighties will prove to have been much more significant than those of 68.

In the same newspaper on May 6th, Severin Carroll, the  Guardian’s Scottish correspondent reports on the latest book published by Professor Gerard de Groot of the University of St Andrews – “The Sixties Unplugged” in which he argues that the spirit of the age “has been obscured by an ill-informed nostalgia for the music, hippy ethos and defiant protests against the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons and conformity”. This book is now on order so if you’d like to read a view of the late sixties with a more critical slant you might like to reserve this work when it is added to stock.


Cubans walk past a poster of the revolution hero Che in Trinidad. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev Category:Mikhail Evstafiev Category:Cuba )

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