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Illegitimate Children of the Enlightenment

Anarchists and the French Revolution, 1880-1914


C. Alexander McKinley

The early years of Third French Republic (1880-1914) saw multiple political factions vying for the legacy of the French Revolution. This book examines one of those factions, the anarchist movement, and the role played by the French Revolution in its political thought and action. The French Revolution became a vital, if not well recognized, tool of the anarchist movement to popularize and legitimize its revolutionary activity while engaged in a struggle with other political forces of the Republic to claim ownership over the Revolutionary heritage. The anarchists of the Third Republic wrote histories of the Revolution that reflected their own political orientation. They asserted themselves as part of the intellectual tradition of the Enlightenment, which they believed had helped spark the Revolution. The anarchists appropriated the music and popular culture of the French Revolution in their own propaganda. Moreover, they orchestrated revolutionary action and political theatre on the day most associated with the Revolution, July 14. In the Revolution, the anarchists saw glimmers of hope, precursors to their own movement, as well as an effective means to present their message to a wider audience as they also offered models for others to imitate.