Expressive revolutions: ‘1968’ and music in the Netherlands

Robert Adlington

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


“There never was a Dutch ‘1968’”, historian Niek Pas has written. This contention reflects two facts about the unfolding of events in the Netherlands during the later 1960s. First, unrest and subversion came early to the streets of Dutch cities, notably through the activities of the anarchist group Provo (1965–7) which stimulated a wave of playful protest and resistance against authorities and ‘the establishment’. The activities of Provo combined with an intense industrial dispute among construction workers to make 1966 the Netherlands’ ‘crisis year’, in which street protests and violence profoundly unsettled a country hitherto regarded as Western Europe’s placid backwater. These events served to vent frustrations that elsewhere only found comparable expression two years later, meaning that in 1968 itself, “literally almost nothing happened in the Netherlands”. Second, the Netherlands experienced what Hans Righart has described as a “moderate, cultural version of the sixties”, in which exploration of new attitudes and modes of expression took precedence over the vigorous political-ideological activism developing in other countries. Provo helped to establish this pattern through its emphasis upon creativity and imagination as primary weapons against “consumer enslavement”. Militant student protest would not arise in the Netherlands until 1969, when a wave of university occupations swept the country. The authorities’ forcible ending of a five-day occupation at the University of Amsterdam encouraged further radicalisation of some student groups, but rapid government legislation securing greater student involvement in the running of universities prevented this radicalisation from becoming anything more than a fringe phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic and Protest in 1968
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781139051682
ISBN (Print)9781107007321
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


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