Backpack Ambassadors


Backpack Ambassadors

How Youth Culture Integrated Europe

Chicago University Press, 2017

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ba-coverEven today, in an era of cheap travel and constant connection, the image of young people backpacking across Europe remains seductively romantic. In Backpack Ambassadors, Rick Jobs tells the story of backpacking in Europe in its heyday, the decades after World War II, revealing that these footloose young people were doing more than just exploring for themselves. Rather, with each step, each border crossing, each friendship, they were quietly helping knit the continent together.

From the Berlin Wall to the beaches of Spain, the Spanish Steps in Rome to the Pudding Shop in Istanbul, Jobs tells the stories of backpackers whose personal desire for freedom of movement brought the people and places of Europe into ever-closer contact. As greater and greater numbers of young people trekked around the continent, and a truly international youth culture began to emerge, the result was a Europe that, even in the midst of Cold War tensions, found its people more and more connected, their lives more and more integrated. Drawing on archival work in eight countries and five languages, and featuring trenchant commentary on the relevance of this period for contemporary concerns about borders and migration, Backpack Ambassadors brilliantly recreates a movement that was far more influential and important than its footsore travelers could ever have realized.


Riding The New Wave

Youth and the Rujuvenation of France after the Second War

Stanford University Press, 2007.  Paperback 2009.

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Winner of the 2007 Outstanding Academic Title Award, sponsored by Choice.

rtnwThis book tells the story of France’s remarkable transformation in the 1940s and 1950s through exhaustive study of the role of youth and youth culture in France’s rejuvenation and cultural reconstruction in the aftermath of war, occupation, and collaboration. Examining everything from Brigitte Bardot and New Wave film to Tarzan and comic books, from juvenile delinquents and managerial technocrats to soldiers and 1968 protesters, from popular culture to politics, the author makes a fascinating case for reconsidering the significance and meaning of youth in postwar France. Riding the New Waveadvances a new methodological approach by considering age as a category of historical analysis comparable to, and in tandem with, race, class, and gender. This history reveals youth to be a central feature in France’s recovery from the Second World War while also clarifying the international significance of youth in the tumultuous 1960s.


“Richard Jobs shows how the concept of the “new wave,” full of dynamism, energy, and buoyant enthusiasm, became a prominent topic in the public discourse of the 1950s and 1960s. Young people and the very idea of youth were objects of debates, public policies, and expectations from the whole society. Yet the concept is anything but static: in its two parts, the book underlines the contrast between the “promise of youth” (through the trend of reconstruction and modernization under the Fourth Republic) and the “problem of youth” (delinquency and early sexuality being a deviant way to live one’s youth). Then, the thematic organization of the book brings out the plurality of the notion, giving way to a fascinating portrait gallery.”

–Ivan Jablonka, H-Childhood

“Extensively researched and engagingly written, this book does a fine job of demonstrating multiple and shifting significations of youth in a nation that was obsessed with the dual task of reconstructing and modernizing both society and politics…Intelligently organized, well-written, and based on exhaustive research, this very fine book should prove highly useful to anyone interested in the subject.”

—Laura Lee Downs, American Historical Review

Riding the New Wave is a path-breaking book that deserves to become a staple in everyone’s reading about postwar France. The research is thorough and imaginatively pursued in a great variety of archival and printed primary sources, offering a fresh perspective on France in the postwar years. The prose is engaging and precise. There is nothing like it in the scholarly literature.”

–Herrick Chapman, New York University

“Jobs’s book succeeds on two fronts: arguing that youth is a category in need of prodding and analysis, and reframing the cultural history of postwar France against the discursive background of young versus old. It is especially relevant as a work of cultural history and the analysis of cultural products are first-rate.”

—Nicole Rudolph, French Politics, Culture & Society

“This is an important and original study not merely in its analyses of multiple ways in which youth figured in the history of this period, but also in its argument that age categories represent an important tool of social analysis. The research is remarkably extensive, and ranges over a dazzling array of activity.”


“Structured around the dichotomy of good and bad youth, this study is well adapted to the dominant discourses of the first decade or so after the war.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Auch der zweite wichtige jüngere Beitrag zur französischen Jugendgeschichte, der aus amerikanischer Hand stammt, fokussiert auf Diskurse, setzt diese aber in Zusammenhang mit jugendpolitischen Maanahmen. Die inspirierende Studie Riding the New Wave: Youth and the Rejuvenation of France after the Second World War von Richard Ivan Jobs konzentriert sich auf Jugend als Konzept, als Chiffre far Moderne und Wandel in französischen Diskursen zwischen Kriegsende und den späten 1950er Jahren. . . . Er verfolgt, welche Ideen und Konzepte die Programme zur staatsbürgerlichen Erziehung der Jugend, die modernen Ausbildungsprogramme, den Umgang mit jugendlichen Straftätern und die Jugendschutzgesetze prägten. Aus diesem Fokus leitet er eine interessante Deutung der Jugendkultur der 1960er Jahre und schließlich auch der 68er Ereignisse ab. . . . Hier müsste auch zukünftige Forschung ansetzen.”

–Sonja Levsen, Neue politische Literatur

“Richard Ivan Jobs gives us [a] . . . meticulously researched, carefully argued, and wide-ranging account of the generation that came of age after the Second World War. His focus, however, is less on young people per se than on the country’s preoccupation with and stake in the next generation. His study of the policies and institutions that shaped future citizens thus also paints a portrait of the Fourth Republic, revealing its goals, anxieties, and contradictions. . . The book might also reach informed nonacademic readers, who will find a book that is vivid, informative, well argued, fascinating, and readable.”

–Lynn Higgins, Journal of Modern History

“Through an examination of everything from Brigitte Bardot and New Wave films to Tarzan and comic books, from juvenile delinquents and managerial technocrats to soldiers and the protesters of 1968, or from popular culture to politics, Jobs makes a fascinating case for reconsidering the significance and meaning of youth in post-war France.”

–Oded Heilbronner, Contemporary European History

“C’est cette exaltation de la jeunesse après la Deuxième Guerre mondiale que Richard Ivan Jobs examine avec beaucoup de minutie. L’auteur n’est pas dupe des pièges sémantiques, politiques et idéologiques de cette notion même, « la jeunesse ». Tout au contraire, dans un dense et beau prologue, il s’attache non seulement à la définir historiquement, mais encore à montrer sa relativité et sa flexibilité. . . « La jeunesse » devient un objet de discours, et même un phénomène social.”

–Ludivine Bantigny, H-France

“This is an engaging, serious, and important book, based upon very impressive scholarship. Jobs analysis is anchored in a serious grasp of post-1945 politics and makes a compelling case.”

–William D. Irvine, York University

“In this impressively researched, clearly written, and persuasively argued study, Richard Ivan Jobs demonstrates how French young people came to symbolize the whole of France as the nation recovered following World War II This book represents an extremely valuable contribution to the literature in several ways. Jobs has at once produced a new narrative of the post-war era, a new history of the much-maligned Fourth Republic, and a pre-history of 1968. He has also challenged historians to think carefully about the importance of age as a powerful [analytic] category.”

—Jeffrey H. Jackson, Journal of Social History

“This attractive, hardback monograph offers an imaginative, readable, yet exhaustively researched and documented “ride” through two difficult, fascinating decades after the French occupation and its associated indignities…the author is extremely impressive in this important, scholarly effort that is as incisive in its commentary and its understanding of modern French culture as it is thorough in its description and its analysis of the people and events that shaped post-war years. He is also refreshingly creative in how he constructs his project as a series of dichotomies; youth versus age, good kids versus bad kids, men versus women, heroism versus betrayal, and sacrifice versus treachery.”

–D. Brian Mann, French Review

“This clear and lively book, read either in its entirety or as discreet chapters, is accessible enough to be be assigned to undergraduate students in history and French departments but will also appeal to graduate students and scholars working in twentieth-century French history, cultural studies, youth culture, feminism, film, and comics. . . Jobs’s study . . . is engaging as well as original in the precision of its focus and the variety of discourses on youth it examines.”

–Jennifer Willging, Contemporary French Civilization


Transnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century

Richard Ivan Jobs and David M. Pomfret, editors

Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.  Paperback 2017.

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jobspomfretcoverTransnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century examines the emergence of youth and young people as a central historical force in the global history of the twentieth century. Each of the chapters considers the activities of young people from a transnational perspective, emphasizing their agency in the development of global interconnectedness by focusing on a variety of case studies that emphasize topics and regions that too often remain unconsidered.

From backpacking in Europe to political activism in Africa, from Malaysian scouting for girls to Franco-Maghribi music, from Argentine Zionism to the Chinese revolution, the local practices and behaviors of the young engaged with the world. This collection is unique in that it analyzes not only the effect of transnationality on youth but also how youth shaped transnationality. It reveals the activities, mobilities, and identities of the young to be a central component of globalization.


“Mixing two innovative fields of research does not automatically ensure good scholarship. Yet in the case of Transnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century, a collection of essays edited by Richard Ivan Jobs and David M. Pomfret, the result commands admiration. Jobs and Pomfret have teamed up with ten authors from eight countries to investigate how youth—both as a gendered concept and as a social formation—emerged as an engine of twentieth-century processes of globalization. Not wedded to Eurocentric narratives or Western perspectives, the essays unfold a dynamic and complex panorama of a variety of transnational circuits and their impact on young people’s lives and relationships while also stressing youth’s agency in different forums of crossborder socialization.”

–Mischa Honeck, Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth

“The global reach of this excellent volume – from China to the Middle East, Japan to South America – is well served by well researched, well argued, and well written chapters on youth, transnationalism, mobility, and modernity.  The volume has an excellent introduction and many compelling and original chapters. Some chapters are truly outstanding, many are very, very good . . . The volume will be of interest to scholars, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates.”

–Anne Gorsuch, University of British Columbia

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