Millennium: 2nd millennium

The 1960s also known as the "Nineteen Sixties" or "9teen 60s" abbreviated the "Sixties" or "60s" was the decade that began on Friday, January 1, 1960 and ended Wednesday, December 31, 1969. It was the seventh decade in the 20th century. The term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends which occurred roughly during the years 1958-1974 in the west, particularly Britain, France, the United States, Australia, Italy and West Germany. Social and political upheaval was not limited to these countries, but included such nations as Japan, Mexico, Canada, and others. The term is used descriptively by historians, journalists, and others documenting our collective past; nostalgically by those who participated in the counter-culture and social revolution; and pejoratively by those who perceive the era as one of irresponsible excess. The decade was also labelled the Swinging Sixties because of the libertine attitudes that emerged during this decade. Rampant drug use has become a synecdoche for the counter-culture of the era, as exemplified by Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner: "If you can remember anything about the sixties, you weren't really there."

The Sixties was a time of immense change in all areas of public and private life, and often referred to as a social revolution global in scale. In the United States, for example, social change was created by the American civil rights movement, the rise of feminism and gay rights, invention of the microchip and formulation of Moore's Law, and even the rise of neoconservatism. The Sixties has become synonymous with all the new, exciting, radical, subversive and/or dangerous (depending on one's viewpoint) events and trends of the period, which continued to develop in the 1970s, 1980s and beyond. In Africa the 1960s was a period of radical political change as countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers, only for this rule to be replaced in many cases by civil war or corrupt dictatorships.


Several Western governments turned to the left in the early 1960s. In the United States President John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960. Italy formed its first left-of-centre government in March 1962 with a coalition of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, and moderate Republicans. Socialists joined the ruling bloc in December 1963. In Britain, the Labour Party gained power in 1964.[1]

Liberal Programs[]

President John F. Kennedy promoted the space program, math and science education, tax cuts and the Peace Corps. It continued with President Lyndon B. Johnson's projects of the Great Society, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


The 1960s were marked by several notable assassinations.

Social and political movements[]

Counterculture/social revolution[]

Younger generations soon began to rebel against the conservative norms of the time. This created a counter-culture that eventually turned into a social revolution throughout much of the western world. It began in the United States as a reaction against the conservative social norms of the 1950s, the political conservatism (and perceived social repression) of the Cold War period, and the US government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam. The main group from the movement were called hippies. Together they created a new liberated stance for society, including the Sexual Revolution, questioning authority and government, and demanding more freedoms and rights for women, gays, and minorities. The movement was marked by drug use (LSD, and marijuana), and psychedelic music.

Anti-war movement[]

A mass movement began rising in opposition to the Vietnam War, ending in the massive Moratorium protests in 1969, and also the movement of resistance to conscription (“the Draft”) for the war. The antiwar movement was initially based on the older 1950s Peace movement heavily influenced by the American Communist Party, but by the mid-1960s it outgrew this and became a broad-based mass movement centered on the universities and churches: one kind of protest was called a "sit-in." Other terms included the Draft, draft dodger, conscientious objector, and Vietnam vet. Voter age-limits were challenged by the phrase: "If you're old enough to die for your country, you're old enough to vote." ~~

Civil rights[]

Stimulated by this movement, but growing beyond it, were large numbers of student-age youth, beginning with the Free Speech Movement at the University of California in 1964, peaking in the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and reaching a climax with the shootings at Kent State University in 1970, which some claimed as proof that "police brutality" was rampant. The terms were: "The Establishment" referring to traditional management/government, and "pigs" referring to police using excessive force. This became the start of something new.

New left[]

The rapid rise of a "New Left" applied the class perspective of Marxist to postwar America, but had little organizational connection with older Marxist organizations such as the Communist Party, and even went as far as to reject organized labor as the basis of a unified left-wing movement. The New Left consisted of ephemeral campus-based Trotskyist, Maoist and anarchist groups, some of which by the end of the 1960s had turned to militancy.


The Soviet Union and the United States were involved in the space race. This led to an increase in spending on science and technology during this period. The space race heated up when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth and President Kennedy announced Project Apollo in 1961. The Soviets and Americans were then involved in a race to put a man on the Moon before the decade was over. America won the race when it placed the first men on the Moon: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in July 1969.

American automobiles evolved through the stream-lined, jet-inspired designs for sports cars such as the Pontiac GTO and the Plymouth Barracuda, Ford Mustang, and the Chevrolet Corvette.

Popular culture[]

The overlapping, but somewhat different, movement of youth cultural radicalism was manifested by the hippies and the counter-culture, whose emblematic moments were the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967 and the Woodstock Festival in 1969. The sub-culture, associated with this movement, spread the recreational use of cannabis and other drugs, particularly new semi-synthetic drugs such as LSD. The era heralded the rejection and a reformation by hippies of traditional Christian notions on spirituality, leading to the widespread introduction of Eastern and ethnic religious thinking to western values and concepts concerning one's religious and spiritual development. Psychedelic drugs, especially LSD, were popularly used medicinally, spiritually and recreationally throughout the 1960s. Psychedelia influenced the music, artwork and movies of the decade.


Popular music entered an era of "all hits" as numerous singers released recordings, beginning in the 1950s, as 45-rpm "singles" (with another on the flip side), and radio stations tended to play only the most popular of the wide variety of records being made. Also, bands tended to record only the best of their songs as a chance to become a hit record. The developments of the Motown Sound, "folk rock" and the British Invasion of bands from the U.K. (The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones ,and so on), are major examples of American listeners expanding from the folksinger, doo-wop and saxophone sounds of the 1950s and evolving to include psychedelic music.

The rise of an alternative culture among affluent youth, creating a huge market for rock and blues music produced by drug-culture, influenced bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Doors, and also for radical music in the folk tradition pioneered by Bob Dylan, The Mamas and the Papas, and Joan Baez in the United States, and in England, Donovan was helping to create folk rock.

Significant events in music in the 1960s:


Popular American movies of the 1960s include Psycho, Breakfast at Tiffany's, To Kill a Mockingbird, My Fair Lady, The Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; The Sound of Music; Doctor Zhivago, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Bonnie and Clyde; Cool Hand Luke; The Graduate; Rosemary's Baby; Midnight Cowboy; Head; Medium Cool; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Easy Rider.

The Counterculture Revolution had a big effect on cinema. Movies began to break social taboos such as sex and violence causing both controversy and fascination. They turned increasingly dramatic, unbalanced, and hectic as the cultural revolution was starting. This was the beginning of the New Hollywood era that dominated the next decade in theatres and revolutionized the movie industry. Films such as Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968) are examples of this new, edgy direction. Films of this time also focused on the changes happening in the world. Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969) focused on the drug culture of the time. Movies also became more sexually explicit, such as Roger Vadim'sBarbarella (1968) as the Sexual Revolution progressed.

In Europe, Art Cinema gains wider distribution and sees movements like la Nouvelle Vague (The French New Wave); Cinéma Vérité documentary movement in Canada, France and the United States; and the high-point of Italian filmmaking with Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini and Pier Paulo Pasolini making some of their most known films during this period. Notable films from this period include: ; L'avventura; La notte; Blowup; Satyricon; Accattone; The Gospel According to St. Matthew; Theorem; Breathless;Vivre sa vie; Contempt; Bande à part; Alphaville; Pierrot le fou; Week End; Shoot the Piano Player; Jules and Jim; Fahrenheit 451;Last Year at Marienbad;Dont Look Back; Chronique d'un été; Titicut Follies; High School; Salesman; La Jetée; Warrendale

The sixties were about experimentation. With the explosion of light-weight and affordable cameras, the underground avant-garde film movement thrived. Canada's Michael Snow, Americans Kenneth Anger. Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, and Jack Smith. Notable films in this genre are: Dog Star Man; Scorpio Rising; Wavelength; Chelsea Girls;Blow Job; Vinyl; Flaming Creatures.

Significant events in the film industry in the 1960s:

International issues[]

In the United States[]

In Canada[]

In the UK[]

In Europe[]

  • Pope John XXIII calls the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church, continued by Pope Paul VI, which met from Oct. 11, 1962 until Dec. 8, 1965.
  • The May 1968 student and worker uprisings in France.
  • Mass socialist or Communist movement in most European countries (particularly France and Italy), with which the student-based new left was able to forge a connection. The most spectacular manifestation of this was the May student revolt of 1968 in Paris that linked up with a general strike of ten million workers called by the trade unions;and for a few days seemed capable of overthrowing the government of Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle went off to visit French troops in Germany to check on their loyalty. Major concessions were won for trade union rights, higher minimum wages and better working conditions.
  • University students protested in their hundreds of thousands in London, Paris, Berlin and Rome with the huge crowds that protested against the Vietnam War.

In Mexico[]

The peak of the student and New Left protests in 1968 coincided with political upheavals in a number of other countries. Although these events often sprung from completely different causes, they were influenced by reports and images of what was happening in the United States and France. Students in Mexico City protested against the authoritarian regime of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz: in the resulting Tlatelolco massacre in which hundreds were killed.

In the Commonwealth[]

Australia and New Zealand committed troops to the Vietnam war with controversy and war protests.Canada celebrated its 100th anniversary of confederation in 1967 by hosting Expo 67, the World's Fair, in Montreal, Quebec.

In Eastern Europe[]

In Eastern Europe students also drew inspiration from the protests in the West. In Poland and Yugoslavia they protested against restrictions on free speech by Communist regimes.

In Czechoslovakia 1968 was the year of Alexander Dubček’s Prague Spring, a source of inspiration to many Western leftists who admired Dubček's "socialism with a human face". The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August ended these hopes and also fatally damaged the chances of the orthodox communist parties drawing many recruits from the student protest movement.

In Africa[]

The transformation of Africa from colonialism to independence dramatically accelerated during the decade.

In China[]

In the People's Republic of China the mid-1960s were also a time of massive upheaval and the Red Guard rampages of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution had some superficial resemblances to the student protests in the West. The Maoist groups that briefly flourished in the West in this period saw in Chinese Communism a more revolutionary, less bureaucratic, model of socialism. Most of them were rapidly disillusioned when Mao welcomed Richard Nixon to China in 1972. People in China, however, saw the Nixon visit as a victory in that they believed the United States would concede that Mao Zedong-thought was superior to capitalism (this was the Party stance on the visit in late 1971 and early 1972).

In South America[]

The Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara travelled to Africa and then Bolivia in his campaigning to spread worldwide revolution. He was killed in 1967 by Bolivian government forces, but in the process became an iconic figure for the student left.


Artists, intellectuals, political figures, writers and the rest[]



Political figures[]




There were six Olympics held during the decade. These were:

1960 XVII Summer Olympics — Italy Rome, Italy
1960 VIII Winter Olympics — United States Squaw Valley, USA
1964 XVIII Summer Olympics — Japan Tokyo, Japan
1964 IX Winter Olympics — Austria Innsbruck, Austria
1968 XIX Summer Olympics — Mexico Mexico City, Mexico
1968 X Winter Olympics — France Grenoble, France

There were two FIFA World Cups during the decade:

1962 FIFA World CupChile Chile (winner Brazil Brazil)
1966 FIFA World CupEngland England (winner England England)

The ten European Cup winners during the decade were:

* First British club to win the European Cup, Celtic triumphed over Internazionale 2-1 in a stunning victory. See European Cup 1966-67 or Lisbon Lions.

The ten Formula One World Championship Winners were:

1960Australia Jack Brabham
1961United States Phil Hill
1962England Graham Hill
1963Scotland Jim Clark
1964England John Surtees
1965Scotland Jim Clark
1966Australia Jack Brabham
1967New Zealand Denny Hulme
1968England Graham Hill
1969Scotland Jackie Stewart

In baseball, the World Series champions during the decade were:

1960 - Pittsburgh Pirates
1961 - New York Yankees
1962 - New York Yankees
1963 - Los Angeles Dodgers
1964 - St. Louis Cardinals
1965 - Los Angeles Dodgers
1966 - Baltimore Orioles
1967 - St. Louis Cardinals
1968 - Detroit Tigers
1969 - New York Mets

The National Football League champions during the decade were:

1960 - Philadelphia Eagles
1961 - Green Bay Packers
1962 - Green Bay Packers
1963 - Chicago Bears
1964 - Cleveland Browns
1965 - Green Bay Packers
1966 - Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I
1967 - Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl II
1968 - Baltimore Colts
1969 - Minnesota Vikings

The American Football League champions during the decade were:

1960 - Houston Oilers
1961 - Houston Oilers
1962 - Dallas Texans
1963 - San Diego Chargers
1964 - Buffalo Bills
1965 - Buffalo Bills
1966 - Kansas City Chiefs
1967 - Oakland Raiders
1968 - New York Jets won Super Bowl III
1969 - Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl IV

The National Hockey League's Stanley Cup champions of the decade were:

1960 - Montreal Canadiens
1961 - Chicago Black Hawks
1962 - Toronto Maple Leafs
1963 - Toronto Maple Leafs
1964 - Toronto Maple Leafs
1965 - Montreal Canadiens
1966 - Montreal Canadiens
1967 - Toronto Maple Leafs
1968 - Montreal Canadiens
1969 - Montreal Canadiens

The National Basketball Association champions of the decade were:

1960 - Boston Celtics
1961 - Boston Celtics
1962 - Boston Celtics
1963 - Boston Celtics
1964 - Boston Celtics
1965 - Boston Celtics
1966 - Boston Celtics
1967 - Philadelphia 76ers
1968 - Boston Celtics
1969 - Boston Celtics

The Canadian Football League's Grey Cup champions of the decade were:

1960 - Ottawa Rough Riders
1961 - Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1962 - Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1963 - Hamilton Tiger-Cats
1964 - British Columbia Lions
1965 - Hamilton Tiger-Cats
1966 - Saskatchewan Roughriders
1967 - Hamilton Tiger-Cats
1968 - Ottawa Rough Riders
1969 - Ottawa Rough Riders


  1. ^ Arthur Marwick, The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, Israel, Italy, India, South Korea, Pen Island, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 247-248.

External links[]

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