Around 1968: Activism, Networks, Trajectories

Project Description:

A project based in Oxford’s Modern European History Research Centre (MEHRC) is considering 1968 as a historic moment between postwar austerity and the Thatcher-Reagan years. Its guiding themes are transnationalism and subjectivity: tracing the links between activists in different parts of Europe and collecting oral testimony which both models and subverts existing narratives. Histories of 1968 have hitherto concentrated on the epicentres of revolt in the democracies of France, West Germany and Italy, together with the United States. This project explores activism not only in the democracies (including Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands) but also in the dictatorships of southern Europe (Franco’s Spain, the Greece of the Colonels) and in the Communist dictatorships beyond the Iron Curtain (the GDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the USSR). It will examine whether there was a common European ’68 or conflicting experiences, misunderstandings and time-lags between radical activity in different parts of Europe, and explore transnational links between European activists. This is a study of militants, the networks they constructed and the trajectories they followed in Europe between 1965-75. It is a collective project, undertaken by 14 historians, 7 based in the UK, 7 outside. It is based on archival work and the collection of oral testimony from a sample of networks and activists involved in them in each country. It explores in a comparative way issues of generational identity, political and lifestyle activism, and combines subjective understanding of militancy with the search for transnational links between militants through emigration and political exile, militant 'tourism' in the Third World, and international networks. The researchers have met in four annual workshops, separately funded by the Leverhulme Trust – Oxford in 2007, Roskilde in 2008, Prague in 2009, and Madrid in 2010. The project is publishing a series of articles in a special number of Cultural and Social History and will bring out a book, with Oxford University Press, revolving around the themes of becoming an activist, being an activist, and making sense of activism. A major legacy of the project will be a database of activists and networks containing the sound files of several hundred interviews, transcriptions and (funding permitting) translations. These will be available to future historians of 1968 via the MDID archiving system.