Student protests, Paris


  • Intro

    The Paris student protests of May 1968 are an iconic symbol of countercultural power. At the time, torn up paving stones and improvised barricades echoed the spirit of the 1789 French Revolution. Artists’ posters and radical graffiti were plastered over the city’s walls. Slogans such as ‘the future will only contain what we put into it now’, ‘boredom is counterevolutionary’ and ‘beneath the paving stones, the beach’ were the rallying cries of the day.


    The student unrest began in Paris’s oversubscribed and underfunded universities. Frustration stemmed from a resentment of Western capitalism and from a dissatisfaction with the outdated nature of the education system. To add fuel to the fire, workers across France joined the students on the streets, objecting to low wages and to oppressive employment methods. A general strike, comprising 10 million workers, soon followed, bringing France to a standstill.


    Violent clashes ensued between police and protesters, and images of injured protesters, smashed shop windows and burning cars were transmitted across the Western world. Although order was eventually restored, French President De Gaulle never recovered from the impact of the rebellion and was voted out of office a year later. 


    Shelfmark: British Library Newspaper Archive

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