ABSTRACT

These snapshots illustrate some of the most significant, obvious and best known developments in post-war popular (and specifically youth) culture. Readers will be familiar with some, and may indeed have been participants, whether hanging-out on Chelsea’s King’s Road in 1975, present at Afton Down in 1970 or at the Cavern in 1962. Or perhaps these are too distant, and a snapshot from the mid 1980s or 1990s would have been more familiar, on Ibiza maybe, or among the crowds at the G-Mex at the height of ‘Madchester’. The general point here, however, is the central theme of this chapter: that although popular perceptions are of a heritage embracing the country’s infrastructure, industry, religion and military acitivity, and usually confined to the more distant past, professional concerns are being increasingly drawn towards the achievements and cultural values of modern youth culture in all its multifarious forms and manifestations.This chapter explores that issue in four ways:

1 it briefly defines the relationship between high (elite) and popular (mass) culture, and perceptions of what constitutes the heritage (much of this is covered in detail in Lowenthal 1997 and Samuel 1994, so only a short outline is presented);

2 it briefly considers how definitions of heritage influence what we regard as historic;

3 it examines the evidence in England and the United States for a developing professional concern for the heritage of post-war youth culture (as a component of a wider popular culture); and

4 it considers the academic value in conserving and researching remains of our recent past. In short, what can be learnt about both the more distant past,and about ourselves and our future, from studying aspects of twentiethcentury youth culture? What sort of an archaeology is it?