French History @IHR: Constance Bantman on anarchist networks at the fin-de-siècle

Date & Place: Monday 26 January, at the IHR, London.

Speaker: Constance Bantman (University of Surrey)

Paper Title: Informal internationalism: networks and mediators in the French anarchist movement, 1880-1914

Chair: Alison Carrol (Brunel)

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Last week, Dr Constance Bantman from the University of Surrey came to discuss her fascinating research on anarchist networks in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Not only did she offer a great overview of the history of anarchist movements in this period, but Bantman also gave us real insight into her methodology and approaches.

photo 1 (11)  photo 2 (9)

Great crowd for Constance Bantman’s talk at the IHR!

At this stage, Bantman’s research focusses mostly on the spread of anarchist ideas from France throughout the world. But eventually, her attention will shift to the reception of ideas within France itself. In her talk, she introduced us to some of her main concerns, approaches and findings. First, why use the term ‘networks’? As Bantman points out, the idea of anarchist ‘groups’ or ‘organisations’ implies a certain level of traditional hierarchy – and this inherently goes against the grain of anarchist agendas. Using a term such as ‘networks’ therefore allows us to conceive of more informal links between individuals or small local groups, especially at an international level. But how does one uncover, trace and analyse these networks, especially transnational ones? Publications are key. Bantman went through all of the issues Les Temps Nouveaux – one of the main anarchist publications started by Jean Grave – a publication which was distributed across the world. Indeed, one third of its publications were released across the world in the USA, Italy, Britain, Roumania, etc. By reading through this paper, Bantman spots numerous links to anarchists scattered all over the world. Indeed, Grave very much wanted to stay in touch with anarchists in America, in Britain, in Georgia, in South Africa, and his publication vividly portrays this transnational outlook. Ultimately, Bantman’s work shows that anarchist ideas did not disappear in 1890s France, when political repression was at its peak. Rather, they were displaced from the national to the international arena.

Thanks again so much to Constance for her intervention, and we were delighted that she joined us for a lovely dinner afterwards.

And don’t forget to JOIN US next week for the launch of Astrid Swenson’s (Brunel) book with comments from Richard Evans (Cambridge) and Peter Mandel (Cambridge)!

The Rise of Heritage: Preserving the Past in France, Germany and England, 1789-1914 by Astrid Swenson (Brunel)


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