Published four years ago, Mark Kurlansky‘s 1968: the year that rocked the world is an engrossing and stimulating general history of a time "when significant segments of population all over the globe refused to be silent about the many things that were wrong with the world."
Kurlansky, 20 years old in 1968 and heavily involved in the anti-Vietnam war protests in the
For Kurlansky four factors combined to produce the year‘s "spontaneous combustion" of rebellions: the example of the civil rights movement; a generation that rejected all forms of authority; the universally unpopular Vietnam War; and the coming of age of television. As Grayson Kirk, the president of
While the majority of the book is concerned with activist developments in the
Kurlansky has written an informative, fast-paced narrative, though at times there is perhaps a little too much description and not enough analysis. And even the inclusion of a chapter on the emerging feminist movement can‘t hide the fact 1968 – and therefore this book – was very much a man‘s world, where the popular Students for Democratic Change could get away with arguing in a brochure, "The system is like a woman. You‘ve got to fuck it to make it change."
These, though, are minor quibbles in an otherwise superb study that has much to interest activists of all colours, from those who were alive at the time to younger people eager to be inspired in to action.
Ian Sinclair is a freelance journalist based in London, England. [email protected].