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1968 Secret History Friday, 1 January, 1999, 22:19 GMT
The year the world shook
The year 1968 brought turmoil and change.

Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King recalled the vision of the Promised Land the night before he died
Across the globe people rallied for freedom of speech and greater equality. Many thousands protested against the continuation of the Vietnam war.

1968 Secret History
Blood was spilt in Paris, Chicago, Prague and Northern Ireland in the name of civil rights.

And charismatic leaders of democracy Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were killed for their cause.

The push for freedom was spearheaded by the young.

They were disaffected by the culture of consumerism and obedience of the post-war years and had to break out.

But their radical actions and beliefs spread further than they imagined, permeating almost every area and level of society in most of the western world.

What it cost
Britain not only felt the shockwaves of this movement but also contributed to the new order.

As 1968 unfolded, it brought political and social upheaval, resulting in fresh attitudes to gender, culture and race in the UK.

When the year was still young, the charged atmosphere on the international scene ignited tensions in the UK.

In March 1968, Grosvenor Square in London became, for a few hours, a battleground as 80,000 protestors against the Vietnam war besieged the American Embassy.

Vanessa Redgrave at demo
Actress Vanessa Redgrave played a leading role in the Grosvenor Square protest
As the year progressed, frustration among students in France reached boiling point. By May the country was at a virtual standstill.

British students caught their fever and one after the other universities fell under their control.

Trouble in the House

On the political field things were rough too. As the Labour government faced an increasingly difficult economic situation, it launched the "I'm Backing Britain" campaign.

And many people did until they discovered that the campaign T-shirts were made in Portugal.

Asian immigrants arriving in Britain
Hundreds of Asians were forced out of Kenya by new employment laws
To add to Westminster's embarrassment, deep divisions in the Cabinet came to a head in March. Foreign Secretary George Brown resigned after quarrelling with colleagues and criticising Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

It was also the year Tory MP Enoch Powell made his "Rivers of Blood" speech urging the repatriation of African and West Indian immigrants that led to his expulsion from the Shadow Cabinet.

On the same note, however, the increasing number of Indians arriving from Kenya did spark cross-party agreement on an immigration bill limiting the entry of migrants in future.

Sporting strife

Not even the sporting field was left untouched by the turbulence of the year. A riot over an umpiring decision led to the suspension of a Test match between the West Indies and England.

Formula One champion Jim Clark
Formula One lost one of its stars with the death of Jim Clark
Twice world champion Formula One driver Jim Clark died in a minor Formula Two race in Germany.

And on the wider scene at the Mexico Olympics, medal winning black American athletes raised defiant fists of Black Power from the rostrum.

But things were not all doom and gloom. Manchester United won the European Cup against Benfica of Portugal in an enthralling 4-1 victory at Wembley in May.

Freedom dance

Despite the violence, there were signs that the protestors' calls for freedom were being heard.

Plans were announced to reduce Britain's voting age to 18 while the country's first abortion clinic opened in November.

Top of the pops in 1968
And theatrical censorship ended after the Lord Chamberlain's powers were removed in December.

It was also a year of wild abandon in new music, fashion and culture. Pop was shocked by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown who sang Fire - and played with it in their act.

While Julie Driscoll characterised the move from the sounds of Flower Power to progressive rock.

And British entertainment scene would never be quite the same again with the arrival in London's West End of Hair - the American "tribal love" musical where performers danced naked on stage.

To round the year off, the world was full of expectation as the US launched its Apollo 8 moon orbiter.

As a mission of adventure and vision it marked a positive strive into the future and captured the spirit of the year as a whole.

Martin Luther King speaks of the "worldwide struggle for freedom and human dignity"
London's Grosvenor Square is besieged by 80,000 protestors
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