‘Keeping with contemporary times’: social tourism and West German youth hostel organizations, 1950s-1980s

Nikolaos Papadogiannis

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This article examines the organizations that ran youth hostels in West Germany from the 1950s to 1989. It analyses whether they reconfigured their aims and practices against the backdrop of the cultural, social and political transformations that West Germany underwent throughout its existence, especially concerning the establishment of strong ties with ‘Western’ countries and the spread of mass consumption. It argues that while the maintenance of discipline among guests by youth hostel personnel remained important in the operation of West German youth hostels throughout the period in question, the norms around which discipline revolved and the ways in which it was enforced increasingly became negotiated between the officials of these associations and the guests at youth hostels. This process does not fall into the category of the ‘cultural revolution’ that occurred in the ‘Long Sixties’, according to Arthur Marwick, but amounted to a protracted and cautious experimentation that lasted several decades. While the historiography of tourism has hitherto analysed either the explosion of commercial tourism or the spread of anti-commercial travel from the 1960s onwards, shifting youth hostel policies help illuminate a popular type of tourism, which growingly developed synergies with both those travel patterns, but yet remained distinct from them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660-687
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Contemporary History
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2016


  • Germany
  • Tourism
  • Youth


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