The Changing Attitudes and Values of Europe in the Post-War Years

The Changing Attitudes and Values of Europe in the Post-War Years


An overview of how Europe’s attitudes and values changed in the post-war years, covering topics such as leisure, education, religion, and politics, with a focus on the sexual revolution and student protests.

Table of Contents:

  • Changes in Leisure
  • Expansion of Education
  • Decline of Religion
  • The Vatican II Council
  • Sexual Revolution and Feminist Movement
  • Political Turbulence and Student Protests


Q: How did people’s leisure activities change after the Second World War?

A: The post-war years saw more individualistic leisure pursuits and entertainment that crossed national borders. This was likely due to a combination of greater wealth and increased access to media from other countries. People had more disposable income to spend on leisure activities, and the growth of mass media made it easier to access entertainment from around the world.

Q: What changes occurred in education during this time period?

A: Education expanded in most European countries, offering opportunities for advancement that had been previously limited. The number of students attending university also increased, which exposed more young people to different ways of thinking and challenged social conventions. Students became more politically active, and this led to the student protests that were a hallmark of the 1960s.

Q: How did religion change during this time period?

A: The decline in religious observance and belief was driven by various factors, including the influence of scientific and medical knowledge and the growth of alternative leisure pursuits. The decline was more pronounced in north-western Europe and among Protestants, but Catholicism retained a stronger hold, especially in economically backward countries like Ireland. The churches tried to adapt to the changes, with ecumenism and new theological ideas emerging, but the decline in religious belief continued.

Q: What was the Vatican II Council, and what changes did it bring about?

A: The transformative papacy of Pope John XXIII marked a significant break with the past and led to the convening of the first general Council of the Church since the 16th century. The Vatican II council in the 1960s brought about major changes to the Catholic Church, including increased authority for bishops, opening the Church to ecumenism, denouncing antisemitism, and allowing for the use of vernacular languages in Mass.

Q: What were some of the changes brought about by the sexual revolution and feminist movement?

A: The sexual revolution and feminist movement challenged traditional attitudes towards sexuality, resulting in an erosion of marriage, higher divorce rates, and the acceptance of casual sex and homosexuality. The rapidly expanding mass media contributed to these changes by challenging traditional taboos. Governments began to adjust to these changes by making contraceptive methods more accessible and permitting abortion with conditions.

Q: What led to the student protests of the 1960s, and how were they expressed in different parts of Europe?

A: The student protests were a result of the generational revolt that characterized a rejection of ideologies, inspired by Marxism, and a challenge to the political establishment. The Vietnam War was a cause that bound together vehement denunciation of unbridled materialism, imperialism, colonialism, American power, and Western capitalism with idealistic notions of rebuilding society along neo-Marxist classless lines. The protest movement found expression in the United States, Japan, Western Europe, and in parts of the Eastern Bloc, and was at its most acute and dramatic in Italy, West Germany, and France. The protests were characterized by a rejection of existing society and a desire to create a new one. Marxism provided the intellectual inspiration, and anti-fascism was a central component of the mood of protest in West Germany and Italy.


Overall, the post-war years saw significant changes in Europe’s attitudes and values regarding leisure, education, religion, sexuality, and politics. The growth of mass media and increased globalization likely contributed to these changes, as did the rising wealth and education levels of the population. While some changes were positive, such as the expansion of education and greater openness towards different cultures, others were more controversial, such as the decline in religious belief and the challenges to traditional sexual norms. The student protests of the 1960s were a particularly important part of this period, representing a generational revolt and a rejection of existing society that had far-reaching implications for European politics and culture.

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