Europe by train, 1972 – 1997: 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 twenty-five 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 in-depth 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 oral history project. Through online channels and personal referrals, I have recruited over forty participants from across the UK who went Interrailing in their late teens and early twenties between 1972 and 1997.
The oral history interviews have investigated youth travel 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. Also, the interviews have explored how travellers planned and carried out their journeys in the pre-digital age and revealed the more challenging aspects of backpacker travel including physical or sexual assault, exposure to other forms of crime such as robbery, experiences with drugs, and relationship difficulties.
In light of the Brexit referendum result, participants have been asked to assess the extent to which their 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.
To enable ongoing public engagement with this project, I have agreed a collaboration with the Museum of Youth Culture. The Museum has agreed to provide an archival home for the interview recordings and transcripts, and curate an Interrail exhibition.
Effective start/end date19/09/2218/09/26