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In Search of the Great Divide

I’ve decided to devote a section of the project, In Search of the Great Divide, to the pre-1840 period—and specifically to the question of how and when to start a general history of anarchism, addressing some of the alternatives in the beginning and taking the opportunity to look at how various other general histories have tackled the problem. […]

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Proudhon’s Barbaric Yawp (1840)

Every story has to start somewhere. And when the story is that of anarchist history, it seems hard to find a more likely place to begin than Proudhon’s 1840 declaration—je suis anarchiste—which we generally treat as the first instance of at least one kind of anarchist position-taking. […]

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Distributaries: “Modern Anarchism”

Our fast-moving mountain current has spread out across the a decade’s worth of terrain, splitting off into various distributary currents. We know—or at least the driving metaphor of this work suggests—that the various currents will never unite as fully as perhaps they were mingled before Proudhon’s death. We can certainly point to instances where some form of direct influence seems to carry forward from the earliest period examined through to the anarchism of the 1880s—but we have also inherited narratives that at least flirt with the notion of a rather complete reinvention of anarchist thought in what Kropotkin called “modern anarchism.” […]

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Distributaries: The Reform Leagues and Anarchist Individualism

There are important individual stories to be told. We’ll track the journey of Dyer D. Lum to anarchism and the post-war exploits of William Batchelder Greene. Ezra and Angela Heywood will feature prominently, as we account for the relationship between The Word and the emerging anarchist movement in the 1870s. There will be a lot of apparent diversions into the spiritualist press, adventures among the free religionists and free lovers, as well as plenty of exploration of the “Yankee International” and the associated organizations. We’ll say goodbye to figures like Calvin Blanchard. […]

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Distributaries: Atercracy

Some of our distributary channels really diverged early, as anarchist ideas spread through the export of the European press and through the exile of European revolutionaries. So, for example, there are individuals and incidents to be explored in the context of the French exile communities in North America. […]

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Distributaries: Anti-Authoritarian Collectivism

Let’s review our position just a bit, in the context of our riverine metaphor. Discussing the first leg of our journey, we were unlikely to go too far wrong talking about stages in the development of a single waterway or simple river system. We could talk about stages of anarchist development and stages in our journey back from the sources of the anarchist tradition in roughly parallel ways. But, as I’ve already noted, each of the long legs of the journey—each volume of the study—because more complicated than the last, which makes the metaphor even more useful in some ways, but also less obvious in others. […]