The 60s Unplugged: A Kaleidoscopic History of a Disorderly Decade by Gerard DeGroot - review by Dominic Sandbrook

Dominic Sandbrook

Busting the Myth

The 60s Unplugged: A Kaleidoscopic History of a Disorderly Decade

By

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‘You don’t understand,’ an American history professor once said to me of the 1960s, wagging an avuncular finger. ‘You had to be there.’ Coming from somebody who had spent his life studying the nineteenth century, it seemed a particularly silly thing to say. But then, as Gerard DeGroot points out in a thoughtful introduction to his new book, there are many people for whom the myth of the Sixties has become ‘something sacred’, a totem of high-minded idealism regularly invoked as a reprimand to our own supposedly cynical age. ‘In no other period of history’, he writes, ‘has canon been allowed so freely to permeate analysis.’ 

Books celebrating the youthful idealism of the late Sixties are ten a penny, particularly across the Atlantic, so it is refreshing to read one that takes a mercifully clear-sighted view of the decade. DeGroot does remember the period, but only just: his earliest childhood memory is of the morning after

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