Summer in the Sixties
Snapshot of the era
- Social and Political moments
The Sixties were an era of memorable events, fads and fashions. To
jog your memory, we have highlights for art,
social/political moments, sport,
and toys along with
information about related programming in the BBC FOUR season.
exploring historical and social movements in the BBC FOUR season:
The Gay Decade
The Race Age
I Hate the Sixties
Sixties Dinner with Portillo
Martin Luther King 'had a dream', the Vietnam War raged
on and the birth control pill was made available to all…
• Thousands of protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square
to protest against the H-bomb in April 1960. It was
the largest demonstration London had seen that century.
• On the 22 December 1961 the first American soldier
was killed in the Vietnam War. This bloody and drawn-out
conflict lasted until American troops were finally withdrawn by President
Nixon in 1973.
The decade was marked by widespread demonstrating and
riots against the war across the globe.
This catastrophic war cost a total of three million
Vietnamese lives (military and civilian) and 58,000 US lives.
• Troops in East Germany sealed the border between East
and West Berlin in Germany in 1961 creating the Berlin Wall.
It wasn't pulled down until 1989.
• John F Kennedy was sworn in as US
president in Jan 1961. He was assassinated with a gun shot to the head
in November 1963.
• The world breathed a collective sigh of relief as
the Cuban Missile crisis ended on 28 October 1962 after
the superpowers reached an agreement ending the immediate threat of
• Health Minister Enoch Powell made an announcement
in 1961 that would radically change women's lives: the birth
control pill was made available to all British women.
Today in Britain, approximately one in three of all
sexually active women take it.
• The fight for racial equality moved closer to victory
as Martin Luther King voiced his dream for racial harmony
in the USA on 28 August 1963.
• The Glasgow to Euston mail train was ambushed and
£2.6m stolen in August 1963 in a heist that became known as the Great
• Nelson Mandela, the leader of the
anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, was jailed for life for sabotage
on 12 June 1964.
• Sir Winston Churchill died aged 90
on 24 Jan 1965.
• The British government announced for the first time
in June 1965 that they would introduce a drink-drive limit.
• The Moors Murderers, Ian Brady and
Myra Hindley, were each sentenced to life imprisonment at the Moors
Trial in May 1966.
Brady was found guilty of three murders whilst Hindley
was found guilty of two.
• Mary Bell, an 11-year-old
school girl, was found guilty of a double killing in Dec 1968.
• Race discrimination laws were tightened
in 1968 as a new Race Relations Act came into force, making it illegal
to refuse housing, employment or public services to people because of
their ethnic background.
• American Neil Armstrong became the first
man to walk on the Moon on 21 July 1969.
And a handful of cultural
• Elvis touched down on British soil
in March 1960 while his plane was refuelled in Scotland. Between then
and his death in 1977 he never returned to Britain.
• The saucy contents of Lady Chatterley's Lover
excited the nation: copies completely sold out on the day of release
(10 Nov 1960).
Within a year Lady Chatterley's Lover had sold two million
copies, outselling even the Bible.
• 'Ukelele King' George Formby died
in March 1961.
• Marilyn Monroe was found dead on
5 August 1962.
• BBC TWO was the first channel in Europe to offer
the nation colour TV in March 1966.
• Mick Jagger and Keith Richards from the Rolling
Stones appeared before magistrates charged with drug
offences in May 1967.
• Concorde flew for the first time
in March 1969
Political power in the Swinging
The Swinging Sixties opened with the Conservatives
in power and a general sense of economic affluence and continued
But in 1964 Harold Wilson led Labour to victory
after 13 years of Conservative rule.
His programme promised planning, economic growth and
a scientific revolution in the service of social improvement.
Labour then went on to win a bigger majority in the
This second term proved more problematic for Wilson:
the pound was devalued in 1967, and the economic plan was abandoned.
Reform of the House of Lords and of industrial relations
fell by the wayside, and an attempt to enter the EC failed.
Many of the Wilson government's initiatives, however,
have proved to be far-reaching achievements: the foundation of the Open
University; the liberalising of laws affecting homosexuals and obscene
publications; and the ending of capital punishment.
However, disillusionment amongst voters was caused
by harsh economic measures designed to rescue sterling, the decline
of Britain's old international role, and for some, by Wilson's support
for the American war in Vietnam.
As a new decade began in 1970 Labour lost the General