Was There a Cultural Revolution c. For some it is a golden age, for others a time when the old secure framework of morality, authority, and discipline disintegrated. In the eyes of the far left, it is the era when revolution was at hand, only to be betrayed by the feebleness of the faithful and the trickery of the enemy; to the radical right, an era of subversion and moral turpitude. What happened between the late fifties and the early seventies has been subject to political polemic, nostalgic mythologizing, and downright misrepresentations.

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Marwick was fascinated by the relationship between the historian and his primary evidence, and he believed that it should be possible to approach bitterly-contested periods of recent history in the methodical way a historian might approach, say, the Renaissance. In his books on historiography, Marwick took issue with Marxist and post-modernist theories, and mounted an enthusiastic defence of history as being about the accretion of a body of knowledge based on the careful evaluation of sources.

A boisterous, pugnacious Scot who enjoyed a good academic scrap and had a voracious appetite for facts, Marwick became fascinated with the s precisely because the decade is associated with social and cultural changes which remain the stuff of hot debate; the period thus offered particular problems for historians attempting to address theoretical questions about what it really signified.

At pages, The Sixties was a rambling blockbuster which ranged in considerable detail over the cultural changes that took place in what Marwick called "the long Sixties" to What he attempted to do was to defend the period as a time of a huge revolution in living standards, relationships and attitudes, while rejecting the "dogmatic tosh" in which radical Sixties activists believed. The "counter-culture" and the "bourgeois system" were never really in dialectical opposition to one another, he maintained.

Rather, there was a subtle interchange between them, with many innovations being absorbed into the mainstream and some counter-culture icons displaying an extraordinary flair for capitalism. The "revolutionary consequences" that Marwick singled out were not those of the Marxists, but were manifested in "the music of the Beatles, the fashion of Mary Quant, the art of Andy Warhol".

Related Articles Gabriel Kolko 03 Sep His enthusiasm led some to label Marwick a typical product of the decade he described - and there was, indeed, something of the ageing hippy about him. Moreover, he conceded that the Sixties had left a poisonous legacy in drug culture, soulless architecture and political correctness. Arthur John Brereton Marwick was born on February 29 After a year as an assistant lecturer in history at the University of Aberdeen, from to he was a lecturer in history at Edinburgh University.

His years in Edinburgh helped to form his views of the s and of how the establishment mediates social and cultural challenges to its authority. In , when a group of students burst into the university staff club bent on staging an occupation, most of his colleagues beat a hasty retreat; but Marwick stayed to listen, and managed to calm the situation down.

The next day The Scotsman carried a headline alleging that Marwick had been "at the centre of the student protest". It printed a retraction, but the activist label stuck.

In the end, as he observed, even the conservative principal of the university, Sir Michael Swann, decided to negotiate with the students — thus illustrating the "repressive tolerance" which so annoyed Marxist activists trying to precipitate the revolution. By the time Marwick was appointed founder professor of history at the fledgling Open University, he had already had television experience on Late Night Line-Up and Scottish current affairs programmes.

Predicting that the new university would be a "young and swinging institution" in fact the average age of OU students is 32 , he was instrumental in establishing its history and arts departments, serving as dean and director of studies in arts from to In works such as The Deluge: British Society and the First World War , Britain in the Century of Total War and War and Social Change in the Twentieth Century , he argued that the social changes brought about by war can best be addressed by developing a model which breaks down war into four components: the destructive consequences; the way in which war tests institutions; how participation in wartime benefits underprivileged groups; and the psychological repercussions of war.

His work in this field received high praise and helped to establish a methodology for other historians. But Marwick was never shy of venturing into more controversial areas, and in Beauty in History , he launched a headlong attack on the feminist idea that "beauty is a social construct".

The book was savaged by its, mostly female, reviewers Angela Carter described it as: "Women I, Arthur, have fancied throughout the ages with additional notes on some of the men I think I might have fancied if I were a woman. The difference was that, whereas in the past the only way a woman could exploit her beauty to achieve wealth or social advancement was to trade sexual services for it, by the s beauty had emerged as a talent in its own right to be exploited professionally - now a beautiful woman could trade her sex appeal for fame and riches without ever having actually to trade sex.

He also edited several volumes on aspects of war and 20th-century history. Arthur Marwick was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He had a daughter, but was unmarried.



In he was appointed the first Professor of History at the newly established Open University , where he remained until his retirement in He was also a critic of postmodernism. Despite its terrible tragedies, Marwick believed that the sum result of the war was that Britain was a better place to live in the s than in the period before the war. His first book was heavily criticised by feminists, including Angela Carter , who sarcastically summarised it as: "Women I, Arthur, have fancied throughout the ages with additional notes on some of the men I think I might have fancied if I were a woman. The improved opportunities for participation in social, political and economic life of previously disadvantaged sectors of society for example, women and the working classes. The emotional and psychological impact of war that may in some cases stimulate creativity, and a greater willingness to adopt new ways of thinking.


Arthur Marwick



Professor Arthur Marwick


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