Journal of Cold War Studies 6.1 (2004) 99-101
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Kenneth J. Heineman, Put Your Bodies upon the Wheels: Student Revolt in the 1960s. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001. 264 pp. $14.95.
This book by Kenneth Heineman, a history professor at Ohio University, adds to the burgeoning literature on the Vietnam War, the "Sixties," and their associated vicissitudes. Put Your Bodies upon the Wheels is limited in its scope, however; it is about what took place in and around American college campuses. With the exception of a discussion about the civil rights movement as a precursor to aspects of campus protest, and unavoidable passing mentions of what was happening in Southeast Asia and in American national politics, Heineman forgoes any effort to connect campus mayhem to the larger dynamic of which it was a part.
That said, the book works well as an introduction to its subject. No main theme is left untouched, and, despite a few fractured sentences, Heineman writes clearly. He is skilled at mixing colorful anecdotes with the judicious use of statistics, and the general statements and transitions among thoughts that determine the ultimate interpretive value of historical writing are here of decent professional quality. The organization of the book, too, makes sense. The first chapter charts the importance of the subject within America's continuing culture wars; the second is the aforementioned prolegomenon on the civil rights movement. The third and fourth chapters identify the main actors and their critics, and impute context and motive to both. The fifth chapter provides a chronological narrative from 1964 to 1967, and the sixth chapter continues the narrative from 1968 to 1970. The seventh chapter dwells on the counterculture, and the final chapter traces legacies and summarizes the author's judgments. As we move steadily away from those days and watch as younger scholars come to occupy seats at universities, there is a need for detailed accounts such as this.
Even for more advanced scholars Heineman offers much. He has dug up some terrific if obscure factoids about many of the key personalities of student protest—not [End Page 99] least their family backgrounds, sexual peccadilloes, and post-1960s exploits. Best of all is Heineman's revealing treatment of how the likes of Robert Wood and Jann Wenner took the counterculture to the bank and, in so doing, introduced many of its most culturally subversive elements into the mainstream.
For the most part, Heineman maintains a proper restraint despite being emotionally engaged in the subject. Sometimes, however, he lets his biases show, and it is easy to identify their source: He is a conservative Catholic. Here we must begin to reckon with the less admirable qualities of the book. Heineman tells us that his account, unlike so many (too many?) others, is not a celebration of the 1960s—but we already knew that, because Ivan R. Dee publishes no such celebrations. Rather, he says, he has tried to be "evenhanded but clear-eyed" (p. xi). Whether he succeeds in this task will be up to readers to judge.
Those who, like Heineman, are conservative (especially conservative Catholics), may find occasion to luxuriate in intellectually self-reinforcing fare. But even readers who share Heineman's aversion to the excesses of the campus antiwar movement may be put off by the flatness of his ascription of motivation. One need not even read between the lines to see that Heineman regards most campus protesters, and especially their leaders, as spoiled rich kids whose main interests in antiwar activity were ego-stroking, sex, drugs, and draft avoidance. He misses few if any chances to detail the chemical and sexual promiscuities of well-known protesters, invoking the f-word within quotations numerous times as he proceeds. Because of this approach, one suspects, Heineman fails to give a sense of—and only briefly acknowledges—the heterogeneity of the sources and organizational manifestations of the antiwar movement. On the key subject of the relationship of the New Left to the Old Left, Heineman is a little too definitive—"In...