Protest Movements in 1960s West Germany: A Social History of Dissent and Democracy

Protest Movements in 1960s West Germany: A Social History of Dissent and Democracy

Protest Movements in 1960s West Germany: A Social History of Dissent and Democracy

Protest Movements in 1960s West Germany: A Social History of Dissent and Democracy

Synopsis

This social history of protest movements in 1960s Germany departs from the limited and often politically biased reports of participants by placing the protests within the wider contexts of social change and international events. Thomas makes extensive use of archival material, much of which has never been used before, to reconstruct an historical narrative that begins with the peace and anti-nuclear campaigns of the 1950s and moves seamlessly on to the defining events of the 1960s -the Vietnam War, university reform, and the womens movement.Through this original reconstruction, Thomas expertly shows how the protest movements both reflected and influenced fundamental social and political change in post-war Germany. He documents their role in helping to establish a critical and politically mature democracy, despite the escalating violence between protesters and government authorities that culminated in the terrorism of the 1970s. This book is a benchmark publication. Not only is it the first to document these events in English, but it challenges previously biased accounts and offers a much needed reassessment of popular assumptions.

Excerpt

I came to this project in April 1998 after completing my PhD on student protest in Britain in the 1960s. The project had been set up before my arrival within the Sixties Research Group of the History Department at the Open University and was originally intended as a continuation of the work begun by Arthur Marwick in his book, The Sixties. This was published shortly after I arrived in the Department. Upon starting the research as a full-time Research Fellow I soon realized that the original remit, on youth in 1960s Germany, was impossibly ambitious and so I narrowed the parameters to include only the protest movements of the 1960s. This was a major deviation from the original plan that made it possible for me to explore some of the themes and interests I had developed during my doctoral research. I therefore came to the project as a 1960s historian rather than as a German historian, a difference that may be lost on some, but which will no doubt cause indignation for others.

This does not mean that I came to the project with a fixed set of ideas about either the 1960s or post-war Germany. My acceptance of the generational model, albeit modified by the application of other ideas, has entailed a reversal of the position I held during my doctoral work. This rethink was prompted by the convincing arguments presented by James Hinton and John Stevenson, the internal and external examiners for my PhD. Above all, the sources have dictated the theory, rather than the other way around, since much previous work has presented a picture of the decade that is unrecognizable from the original sources.

Nick Thomas, University of Nottingham . . .

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