Books

The Long '68

Richard Vinen

The 'long 68' saw an extraordinary range of protests across much of the western world. Some of these were genuinely revolutionary - around 10 million French workers struck and the whole state teetered on the brink of collapse. Others were more easily contained, but had profound longer term implications - terrorist groups, feminist collectives, gay rights activists could all trace important roots to 1968. Bill Clinton and even Tony Blair are, in many ways, the product of 68.

THE LONG '68 is a striking and original attempt, half a century on, to show how these events, which in some ways still seem so current, stemmed from histories and societies which are in practice now extraordinarily remote from our own time.

National Service

Richard Vinen

Winner of the Templer Medal and the Wolfson History Prize

Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller

Richard Vinen's National Service is a serious - if often very entertaining - attempt to get to grips with the reality of that extraordinary institution, which now seems as remote as the British Empire itself. With great sympathy and curiosity, Vinen unpicks the myths of the two 'gap years', which all British men who came of age between 1945 and the early 1960s had to fill with National Service.

This book is fascinating to those who endured or even enjoyed their time in uniform, but also to anyone wishing to understand the unique nature of post-war Britain.

The Unfree French

Richard Vinen

In the summer of 1940 the French army was one of the largest and best in the world, confident of victory. In the space of a few nightmarish weeks that all changed as the French and their British allies were crushed and eight million people fled their homes. Richard Vinen's new book describes the consequences of that defeat. It does so not by looking at political leaders in Vichy or Paris or London but rather at those who were caught up in daily horrors of war. It describes the fate of a French prisoner of war who was punished because he wrote a love letter to a German woman, and the fate of a French woman who gave birth to a German-fathered child as the Americans landed in Normandy. It describes the 'false policemen' who proliferated in occupied Paris as desperate men on the run seeking to feed themselves by blackmailing those who were even more vulnerable than themselves. It asks why some gentile French people chose to risk imprisonment by wearing yellow stars. It recounts the fate of a couple of estranged middle-aged Jews, separated by the mobilisation of 1939, who found themselves (in July 1942) on the same train to Auschwitz. Extremely moving and brilliantly readable, The Unfree French is a remarkable addition to the literature of the Second World War.

Biography

Richard Vinen is Professor of History at King's College, London and the author of a number of major books on 20th century Europe. He won the Wolfson Prize for History for his last book, National Service.