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Paths to utopia : anarchist counter-cultures in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain 1880-1914

By Matthew Thomas


Most historiography on British Anarchism has concluded that the Anarchists\ud contributed very little to the political, social and cultural life of Britain. This thesis aims to\ud provide an alternative view. The failure of Anarchism as a coherent political movement has\ud been adequately charted by others. The purpose of the present work is to investigate the\ud impact of Anarchist ideas and practices within the wider political culture. It will\ud demonstrate that Anarchism had significant things to say about many of the issues\ud troubling British society at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth\ud centuries. The Anarchist contribution often demonstrated a high degree of originality and\ud coherence and therefore deserves to be taken seriously.\ud The first chapter outlines the evolution of British Anarchism from the 1880's\ud onwards in order to construct a chronological and organisational context for the thematic\ud debates that follow. It provides an historical account of the various Anarchist groups in\ud Britain and their relations with the rest of the Socialist movement. Chapter Two builds on\ud this by discussing the various social and cultural mileux characteristic of British\ud Anarchism. The following chapters present evidence of the Anarchist contribution to a\ud variety of diverse developments in British society between the 1880's and 1914. In order,\ud these are educational practices, communal ways of living, trade unionism, Syndicalism and\ud finally the status of women in society. The conclusion maintains that, although Anarchist\ud influence was weakened by sectarianism and organisational failures, the Anarchists\ud nevertheless made an original contribution to the political culture, both as theorists and\ud practical activists

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