Many innovations are schools-based and attempts to generalize them and to create a wider ‘structure’ of change have to grapple with the problems experienced and perceived at school level. If such problems are substantial innovations are often ‘contained’ within the school and curriculum conflict remains local and idiosyncratic. One example of a new curriculum ‘subject’ which developed in the 1960s was European studies. Its subsequent development offers an opportunity to scrutinise the history of a ‘contained’ school innovation over two decades.