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International context

Page history last edited by George O\'Docherty 5 years, 7 months ago


1968 was a time of much upheaval and demonstration against the establishment and social order, not just in France but also globally. These 'crises' came about as the culmination of the desire for freedom and change in societies exasperated with obsolete socio-ethical codes (saint-etienne.fr). This wider backdrop of social movements could help explain the increasing anti-status quo sentiment which permeated the events of May 68. 


United States


Perhaps the most renowned movements outside the student protests in France were those in the US. From the beginning of the 1960s the civil rights movement had been taking place, spearheaded by Martin Luther King. This was to have a profound social effect on America and affected much change politically with new legislation passed by Congress in April 1968 aimed at racial equality. The assassination of Martin Luther King during this month may have added fuel to the fire of public outcry and discontent.

The Vietnam War effort garnered much backlash due to the controversial and unclear reasons behind escalation. January 1968 saw the launch of the Tet Offensive where US embassy in Saigon was sieged by North Vietnamese forces, while March of this year saw the My Lai Massacre take place, where hundreds of unarmed civilians were slaughtered by US forces. When news of this eventually reached America the public were in shock and opposition towards the war effort grew.

The anti-war movement gained much popularity after student protests in Washington DC in March 1965, with further protests staged by university students in Berlin and in London. These reached a brutal climax when student protestors were shot at Ohio's Kent State University in 1970, resulting in the deaths of 4 people.




Prague Spring - reformist politician Alexander Dubček was elected into Communist Party, culminating in Soviet military intervention to prevent the reforms which included economic decentralization. This period signaled a an effort towards liberalisation, with more rights granted to citizens and the relaxing of certain restrictions on free speech and the media. This certainly connects to the liberalisation and change sought by the students and workers striking and protesting May 1968. 



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