Europe by train, 1972 – 1996: The experiences of young Interrailers from the UK

Project: Research

Project Details

Layman's description

Since its introduction in 1972, the Interrail scheme has enabled millions of Europeans to travel by train around much of their continent at relatively low cost. In the first 25 years of the scheme, approximately half a million young backpackers from Great Britain and Northern Ireland took an Interrail trip. Despite the numbers involved, little research has been conducted into this distinctive aspect of British youth culture.
Following the 50th anniversary of Interrail in 2022, and with some of the pioneering Interrailers now in their 70s, now is a fitting time to undertake this research project. Through online channels and personal referrals, I will recruit participants from across the UK who went Interrailing in their late teens and early twenties between 1972 and 1996, and then conduct a series of oral history interviews.
Public engagement is crucial to the success of this project. I have agreed a collaboration with the Museum of Youth Culture which has offered to promote the search for participants, curate a digital exhibition, and provide an archival home for the interview recordings and transcripts.
This project will investigate Interrail experiences which occurred during the latter stages of the Cold War era, and then as Eastern Europe began to open up in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The interviews will explore how travellers learnt about the scheme and planned their journeys in the pre-digital age and seek to uncover more difficult aspects of backpacker travel such as relationship difficulties and exposure to crime and drugs. In light of the Brexit referendum result, the project will assess the extent to which the participants’ Interrail experiences informed their cultural and political views on Europe.
This postgraduate research project is supervised by Dr Amy Tooth Murphy and Dr Edward Madigan and was approved by the Research Ethics Committee at Royal Holloway, University of London in February 2023.
Effective start/end date19/09/2218/09/26