The Anarchist Mecca? The French Anarchists in London, 1880-1914

Speaker – Constance Bantman

Five hundred or so French anarchists were exiled in London between 1880 and 1914. As the anarchist movement went through a terrorist phase which was especially bloody in France, the drastic repression that followed forced hundreds of ‘companions’ (the nickname of anarchists) out of the country. As most European countries closed their borders to political refugees – and above all the highly-stigmatised anarchists – at the end of the nineteenth century, Britain remained the one country offering shelter to such dissident and potentially dangerous groups, and therefore became the rallying point for international radical exiles, an unrivalled militant hub. It provided a much-needed harbour to these French militants, enabling them to redefine the goals and strategy of the movement at a critical time

Constance Bantman is an Associate Professor in French at the University of Surrey, UK. Her research focuses on the social and political history of French anarchism as a networked and transnational movement. Her most recent monograph is Jean Grave and the Networks of French Anarchism, 1854-1939 (Palgrave, 2021), a biography of the influential French editor Jean Grave. She is also the author of The French Anarchists in London 1880-1914. Exile and Transnationalism in the First Globalisation (LUP, 2013). She is currently working on a book entitled Femmes de Révolution (XVIII- XXIst C.), to be published by Le Seuil in 2023.