Bomb Anarchists, Idea Anarchists: French Anarchists in London, 1880-1895

Anarchist Communities (End of the 19th Century -First half of the 20th Century)
By Constance Bantman

The political activities of the 450 or so French-speaking anarchists exiled in Great Britain between 1880 and 1914 have recently been the subject of diverging historiographical assessments. The terrorist motive, which the movement’s contemporaries were so concerned with, has been taken up by several studies. Yet a transnational approach brings out a very different interpretation: that of a group with a predominantly informal organisation (against the myth of the “anarchist International”), overwhelmed with basic material preoccupations, and more inclined to strategic thinking concerning the revolutionary potential of trade unions than to terrorist pursuits. In the light of this analysis, it is therefore more fruitful to describe London’s “French quarter”, not as a terrorist outpost, but rather as a node of networks and transfers for the international anarchist movement.

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