HISTORY OF MODERN FRANCE
The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 14
12 October 2022
May 1968 – The Last French Revolution
with Chris Boïcos
To this day the fateful month of May 1968 is referred to in discussions of French society and in French politics, in both horror and praise, as the crucial moment in which France leapt into modernity.
Student demonstrations and labor strikes – notably at the emblematic Renault car factory in Boulogne – brought France to a standstill for a full month. President Charles de Gaulle was forced to secretly leave the country and fly to a French army base in Germany in order to be reassured as to the military’s backing of his regime. Beyond student and labor turmoil, May 1968 also signaled the beginning of the sexual revolution, women’s liberation, the ecological movement, the breakdown of traditional and Catholic morals and the beginning of the future struggles for all minority rights in France.
In our lecture we will outline the main events of the month of May, the key figures like the radical student leaders Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Jacques Sauvageot and Alain Geismar, as well as the key venues of revolution: the university of Nanterre, the Sorbonne, the Latin quarter of Paris, the Odéon theater or the Renault factory in Boulogne. We will see how many of the issues of May 1968 are still very much with us and still contribute to today’s culture wars in France as much as in the USA.
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