Vibrantly and perceptively told, this is the story of one remarkable year—a vivid history of exhilarating triumphs and shattering defeats around the world.
1956 was one of the most remarkable years of the twentieth century. All across the globe, ordinary people spoke out, filled the streets and city squares, and took up arms in an attempt to win their freedom.
In this dramatic, page-turning history, Simon Hall takes the long view of the year's events—putting them in their post-war context and looking toward their influence on the counterculture movements of the 1960s—to tell the story of the year's epic, global struggles from the point of view of the freedom fighters, dissidents, and countless ordinary people who worked to overturn oppressive and authoritarian systems in order to build a brave new world. It was an epic contest.
1956 is the first narrative history of the year as a whole—and the first to frame its tumultuous events as part of an interconnected, global story of revolution.
Hall (Rethinking the American Anti-war Movement), professor of American history at the University of Leeds, U.K., captures the collective drama of the year 1956, which saw massive expressions of popular discontent worldwide and demonstrated the stubbornness and violent proclivities of the "guardians of the old order.'" The year was a major turning point in "the global struggle against white supremacy" in the U.S. and South Africa, despite stiff hostility and reactionary terror. Postwar anticolonial nationalism lingered in much of North Africa, fueling decolonization movements and further eroding the old European empires, though not without bloodshed; the Suez crisis exemplified the declining power of the European imperial powers. In the U.S.S.R., Khrushchev's repudiation of Stalin and moves toward liberalization elicited surprise and uncertainty, and "fueled a series of rebellions across the people's democracies' of Eastern Europe," most visibly in Poland and Hungary, where Soviets countered the spread of "revolutionary fervor" with a brutal crackdown. Hall also covers the Castro brothers' failed initial operation to overthrow the Batista dictatorship in Cuba, and American cultural and generational rebellion in the form of rock 'n' roll, dancing, and poetry. Switching between these multiple developments, Hall provides a dramatic and immersive narrative of a tumultuous year of oppression, revolt, and reaction in a decade often considered bland and docile.