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1960 1961 1962 1963 1964
| Decades: |
1940s 1950s - 1960s - 1970s 1980s
| 20th century|
The 1960s decade refers to the years from the beginning of 1960 to the end of 1969. 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 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 also become inextricably associated with the counter-culture of the era.
The Sixties was a time of intense social change in all areas of public and private life, and often referred to as a social revolution global in scale. In the United States the deterioration of White society began with the Civil Rights movement, the rise of feminism, homosexuality, miscegenation and heavy drug use. The Sixties has become synonymous with all the radical, subversive and/or dangerous 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 and chaos as many non-white countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle Eastgained independence from their European colonial rulers, only for this rule to be replaced in many cases by civil war or corrupt dictatorships.
Politics and wars
- The Cold War:
- The Vietnam War (1959 - 1975)
- 1961 – Substantial (approximately 700), American advisory forces first arrive in Vietnam in 1961.
- 1962 – By mid-1962, the number of U.S. military advisers in South Vietnam had risen from 700 to 12,000.
- 1963 – After the overthrow of the Diem Regime in early November 1963, Kennedy increased the number of U.S. military advisers from 800 to 16,300 to cope with rising guerrilla activity in Vietnam.
- 1964 – After the Gulf of Tonkin incident, on August 2, 1964 and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which was a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress passed on August 10, 1964 in direct response to a minor naval engagement known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. The resolution gave U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of military force in Southeast Asia. The Johnson administration subsequently cited the resolution as legal authority for its rapid escalation of U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam conflict.
- 1966 – After 1966 with the draft in place more than 500,000 troops are sent to Vietnam by the Johnson administration and college attendance soars.
- The Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961) - an unsuccessful attempt by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba with support from US government armed forces, to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro.
- Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974) - the war was fought between Portugal's military and the emerging nationalist movements in Portugal's African colonies. It was a decisive ideological struggle and armed conflict of the cold war in African (Portuguese Africa and surrounding nations) and European (mainland Portugal) scenarios. Unlike other European nations, the Portuguese regime did not leave its African colonies, or the overseas provinces, during the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1960s, various armed independence movements, most prominently led by communist-led parties who cooperated under the CONCP umbrella and pro US groups, became active in these areas, most notably in Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea. During the war, several atrocities were committed by all forces involved in the conflict.
- Arab–Israeli conflict (Early 20th century-present)
- Six Days War (June 1967) - a war between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The Arab states of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria also contributed troops and arms. At the war's end, Israel had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day.
- The Algerian War came to a close in 1962.
- Cultural Revolution in China (1966–1976) - a period of widespread social and political upheaval in the People’s Republic of China which was launched by Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Communist Party of China. Mao alleged that "liberal bourgeois" elements were permeating the party and society at large and that they wanted to restore capitalism. Mao insisted that these elements be removed through post-revolutionary class struggle by mobilizing the thoughts and actions of China's youth, who formed Red Guards groups around the country. The movement subsequently spread into the military, urban workers, and the party leadership itself. Although Mao himself officially declared the Cultural Revolution to have ended in 1969, the power struggles and political instability between 1969 and the arrest of the Gang of Four in 1976 are now also widely regarded as part of the Revolution.
- 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 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.
- The Tlatelolco massacre - was a government massacre of student and civilian protesters and bystanders that took place during the afternoon and night of October 2, 1968, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City.
- The Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962) - a near military confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union about the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. After an American Naval (quarantine) blockade of Cuba the Soviet Union under the leadership of Nikita Khruschev agreed to remove their missiles.
- On October 16, 1964 China detonated its first atomic bomb. China possessed a hydrogen bomb by 1967.
Decolonization and Independence
- The transformation of Africa from colonialism to independence in what is known as the decolonisation of Africa dramatically accelerated during the decade, with 32 countries gaining independence between 1960 and 1968. The high hopes these new countries had quickly faded, and many would fall into anarchy, dictatorships, and civil war.
Prominent political events
- 1960 - United States presidential election, 1960 - The key turning point of the campaign was the series of four Kennedy-Nixon debates; they were the first presidential debates held on television.
- 1961 – Newly elected President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson take office in 1961; Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps.
- 1963 – Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. on August 28.
- 1963 - President Lyndon Johnson becomes president and presses for civil rights legislation.
- 1964 – U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson is elected in his own right, defeating United States Senator Barry Goldwater in November.
- 1964 - Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This landmark piece of legislation in the United States outlawed racial segregation in schools, public places, and employment.
- 1964 - Wilderness Act signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 3.
- 1965 – U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey take office in January.
- 1965 - National Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the United States.
- 1968 – U.S. President Richard M. Nixon is elected defeating Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey in November.
- 1969 – U.S. President Richard Nixon is inaugurated in January 1969; promises "peace with honor" to end the Vietnam War.
- The Quiet Revolution in Quebec altered the province into a more secular society. The Jean Lesage Liberal government created a welfare state (État-Providence) and fomented the rise of active nationalism among Francophone Québécois.
- On February 15, 1965, the new maple leaf flag was adopted in Canada, after much acrimonious debate known as the Great Flag Debate.
- In 1960, the Canadian Bill of Rights becomes law, and Universal suffrage, the right for any Canadian citizen to vote, is finally adopted by John Diefenbaker's Progressive Conservative government. The new election act allows first nations people to vote for the first time.
- Construction of the Berlin Wall started in 1961.
- British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan delivers his Wind of Change speech in 1960.
- Pope John XXIII calls the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church, continued by Pope Paul VI, which met from October 11, 1962 until December 8, 1965.
- In October 1964, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was expelled from office due to his increasingly erratic and authoritarian behavior. Leonid Brezhnev and Alexey Kosygin then became the new leaders of the Soviet Union.
- 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 Soviet 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.
- Relations with the United States remained hostile during the 1960s, although representatives from both countries held periodic meetings in Warsaw, Poland (since there was no US embassy in China). President Kennedy had plans to restore Sino-US relations, but his assassination, the war in Vietnam, and the Cultural Revolution put an end to that. Not until Richard Nixon took office in 1969 was there another opportunity.
- Following Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's expulsion in 1964, Sino-Soviet relations devolved into open hostility. The Chinese were deeply disturbed by the Soviet suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968, as the latter now claimed the right to intervene in any country it saw as deviating from the correct path of socialism. Finally, in March 1969, armed clashes took place along the Sino-Soviet border in Manchuria. This drove the Chinese to restore relations with the US, as Mao Zedong decided that the Soviet Union was a much greater threat.
- 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.
- On September 1, 1969, the Libyan monarchy was overthrown, and a radical, anti-Israel, anti-Western government headed by Col. Muammar al-Qadaffi took power.
- In 1964, a successful coup against the democratically elected government of Brazilian president João Goulart, initiates a military dictatorship of over 20 years of oppression.
- The Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara travelled to Africa and then Bolivia in his campaigning to spread worldwide revolution. He was captured and executed in 1967 by the Bolivian army, and afterwards became an iconic figure for leftists around the world.
- Juan Velasco Alvarado took power in Peru in 1968.
- In India a literary and cultural movement started in Calcutta, Patna, and other cities by a group of writers and painters who called themselves "Hungryalists", or members of the Hungry generation. The band of writers wanted to change virtually everything and were arrested with several cases filed against them on various charges. They ultimately won these cases. This span of the movement was from 1961 to 1965.
The 1960s were marked by several notable assassinations.
- Ku Klux Klan member Byron De La Beckwith assassinated Medgar Evers, an NAACP field secretary, on June 12, 1963.
- Lee Harvey Oswald, assassinated US President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
- Members of the Nation of Islam assassinated Malcolm X on February 21, 1965.
- John Patler assassinated American National Socialist leader George Lincoln Rockwell on August 25, 1967.
- James Earl Ray assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968.
- Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Senator Robert F. Kennedy on June 6, 1968.