AHR Forum: The International 1968

Historians in the News

Two thousand and eight marked the fortieth anniversary of a remarkable year, a year that has come to stand for a decade which, to rephrase Paul Kantner's memorable quip, we can only remember if we weren't there. Two months late, we present the first part of a two‐part AHR Forum, “The International 1968,” an act of historical recovery and analysis by seven historians who, whether they were there or not, offer a range of perspectives on the politics, the protests, the social and cultural transformations, and the historical significance of that tumultuous year. Of course, 1968 was marked by more than youth protests, popular mobilization, and manifestations of the counterculture. It was also a year of assassinations (Martin Luther King, Jr.; Robert F. Kennedy), the Tet offensive in Vietnam, Richard Nixon's election as president, the publication of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae (condemning birth control), the peak of the Cultural Revolution in China, and the decision of the United States to go off the gold standard, among other notable events. One might argue that in light of the subsequent course of history, these and other developments had a greater impact than the student uprisings and youth culture that we associate with that year. But our focus in this Forum is largely on the dramatic movements that, rightly or wrongly, captured media attention at the time and remain emblematic of the spirit of the era. Although the articles differ in subject and approach, they collectively make the point that these upheavals were hardly trivial or inconsequential. They were manifestations of large‐scale social, cultural, and political transformations; they challenged the very nature of contemporary political culture. And their context was transnational, if not global....

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