Ever go backpacking through Europe? In Backpack Ambassadors: How Youth Travel Integrated Europe
(University of Chicago Press, 2017), Richard Ivan Jobs
traces the postwar cultural history of the making of Europe through the stories and perspectives of the young people who moved across the continent’s borders. A history of European integration from the end of the Second World War to the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, the book emphasizes the roles that young people played in postwar recovery and reconciliation efforts, their participation in Europeanization, the upheavals of 1968, and the ways that young people’s movements were circumscribed by the Cold War and transformed by its end.
examines the emergence of a “community of practice” defined by young people themselves, a community complicated by gender, class, race, and other differences. While youth are the key agents in this history, the book also considers the policies, programs, and regulations of the states that sought to encourage and manage the movement of young travelers across Europe in various ways. Transnational in subject and method, the chapters of the book draw on multiple archives and sources from several countries, including interviews with former backpackers and the experiences of the author himself. Absorbing in its myriad stories and compelling in its analysis, Backpack Ambassadors
is a must-read for anyone interested in research and writing that connects culture and politics while pushing past the limits of national history. Highly readable and human in its approach, the book is also a fantastic resource for those teaching European integration at the undergraduate or graduate levels.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. Her current research focuses on the representation of nuclear weapons and testing in France and its empire since 1945. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send an email to: email@example.com.