Lancaster Protesters at BarrowDuring the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lancaster had a reputation as one of the most radical universities in the country. It is rumoured that The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury was based in part on events which occurred here the university. The book was later turned into a television series which was partially filmed on the Lancaster campus and starred Antony Sher in the lead role.

Student activism covered issues as wide-ranging as local bus fares and freedom of speech. In November 1967, Carolynne reported that 70 students returning from a dance were locked in a Ribble garage after a fares dispute. In 1965, there was a street march against the consequences of Rhodesia’s threatened unilateral declaration of independence and a protest against the visit of the Smethwick MP Peter Grittiths who arrived to address the university Conservative Association. Various members of the Marxist society accused the MP of being a racist.

Anti-Vietnam protests were also prevalent at Lancaster. In 1965, ten students spent two days in the December snow to protest against American involvement in the war. During the summer of 1966, a number of students conducted an anti-Vietnam march along a Morecambe promenade packed with people enjoying the sunshine. As a result, 16 students were fined £4 each; one particular student was carried from Morecambe court and sent to prison for his refusal to pay. Much of the protest activity on American campuses during the 1960s was reported by the left-wing student paper John O’Gauntlet. The paper also accused science departments of behaving like a degree factory, in much the same way as students at Berkley in California.

Some of the protests made national news. The most widely reported occurred in the early 1970s, when it was announced that David Craig, a lecturer who had become the centre of an argument about academic freedom and freedom of speech was to be made redundant. Disgruntled students gathered in Alexandra Square and blockaded University House to support his cause.

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