1968: The Year That Rocked the World

1968: The Year That Rocked the World

Mark Kurlansky

Language: English

Pages: 297

ISBN: 0345455827

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this monumental new book, award-winning author Mark Kurlansky has written his most ambitious work to date: a singular and ultimately definitive look at a pivotal moment in history.

With 1968, Mark Kurlansky brings to teeming life the cultural and political history of that world-changing year of social upheaval. People think of it as the year of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Yet it was also the year of the Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy assassinations; the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Prague Spring; the antiwar movement and the Tet Offensive; Black Power; the generation gap, avant-garde theater, the birth of the women’s movement, and the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. From New York, Miami, Berkeley, and Chicago to Paris, Prague, Rome, Berlin, Warsaw, Tokyo, and Mexico City, spontaneous uprisings occurred simultaneously around the globe.

Everything was disrupted. In the Middle East, Yasir Arafat’s guerilla organization rose to prominence . . . both the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice Biennale were forced to shut down by protesters . . . the Kentucky Derby winner was stripped of the crown for drug use . . . the Olympics were a disaster, with the Mexican government having massacred hundreds of students protesting police brutality there . . . and the Miss America pageant was stormed by feminists carrying banners that introduced to the television-watching public the phrase “women’s liberation.”
Kurlansky shows how the coming of live television made 1968 the first global year. It was the year that an amazed world watched the first live telecast from outer space, and that TV news expanded to half an hour. For the first time, Americans watched that day’s battle–the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive–on the evening news. Television also shocked the world with seventeen minutes of police clubbing demonstrators at the Chicago convention, live film of unarmed students facing Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia, and a war of starvation in Biafra. The impact was huge, not only on the antiwar movement, but also on the medium itself. The fact that one now needed television to make things happen was a cultural revelation with enormous consequences.

In many ways, this momentous year led us to where we are today. Whether through youth and music, politics and war, economics and the media, Mark Kurlansky shows how, in 1968, twelve volatile months transformed who we are as a people. But above all, he gives a new understanding to the underlying causes of the unique historical phenomenon that was the year 1968. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written–full of telling anecdotes, penetrating analysis, and the author’s trademark incisive wit–1968 is the most important book yet of Kurlansky’s noteworthy career.

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they died they were wrapped in the mats and placed in a hole. Every night the holes were covered and a new one dug for the next day. The Nigerians would not allow in relief flights, including Red Cross, to help Biafra’s ten million people, one-tenth of whom were living in refugee camps. They said that such flights inhibited the ability of the Nigerian air force to carry out its mission. The only food getting through arrived on a few night flights by daredevil pilots sponsored by international

It was a threat. When Dubek was first taken away, he was told that he would face a tribunal. While the Soviets thought they had a quisling Czechoslovakian government to replace him and his colleagues, the possibility of executions was real. But when Svoboda held out and events turned more and more unfavorable for the Soviets, the imprisoned leaders were treated with increasing politeness. Both sides needed an agreement. Without it the Soviets would have no legitimacy, but the Prague Spring

happening at the Wall in the middle of the night were useless. He was missing the point. The point was that it would be live. “So indeed, I stood there,” Schorr recounted. “This is the wall, behind here is where East Germany is, and all. And then, because we were there with lights on, you would hear dogs barking. Dogs started to bark and ‘you would hear dogs barking sometimes chasing some poor East German who was trying to escape. I don’t know that that is happening right now’—a lot of crap! But

young people at demonstrations with his song “Love Me, I’m a Liberal.” The song’s message was that liberals said the right things but could not be trusted to do them. Fidel Castro is a seducer. He has always had an enormous ability to charm, convince, and enlist. He was so completely confident and self-assured that he was almost an irresistible force. He could just walk into a room or even a wide-open space and everyone present could feel, even in spite of themselves, a sense of excitement—a

and clubs, said there were only about three thousand marchers. In San Francisco about ten thousand demonstrators marched against the war, including, according to organizers, several dozen servicemen in civilian clothing and several hundred veterans wearing paper hats that said “Veterans for Peace.” In Syracuse, New York, an outstanding high school student, Ronald W. Brazee, age sixteen, who on March 19 had ignited his gasoline-soaked clothing near a cathedral as protest against the war, died. He

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