Ruth Kinna (2005) Anarchism (Oneworld)

There are a number of ways of understanding the history of anarchy, represented below in diagrammatic and tabulated form. First, by considering the ideas of key thinkers. Secondly, by dividing anarchists into schools of thought. And thirdly, by examining the history of anarchist ideas. Each approach carries its own set of problems.

The 'key thinkers' take on Anarchism began with Paul Eltzbacher's 1901 work, Der Anarchismus, a book endorsed by Kropotkin. Its list of anarchist greats has been variously repeated and amended by anarchist writers and historians ever since (see below), although there has been a consistent omission of female anarchist among listed key thinkers. As well as Emma Goldman (1869-1940), some that might have been more frequently included are: Louise Michel (1830-1905); Lucy Parsons (1853-1942); Charlotte Wilson (1854-1944); and Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912).

Other problems with the 'key thinkers' approach include: focus on biography rather than ideas/action distorting understanding of Anarchism as a political movement; potentially admits anyone whose thinking resembles Anarchism, even in part (e.g. Lao Tzu); contentions over who should be included; the contradiction between the idea of "canonical" anarchist thinkers and anti-authoritarianism.

Anarchists have delineated themselves into different schools of Anarchism since the 19th century, and equally, some have sought to identify themselves with an "Anarchism without adjectives" in order to minimalise the significance of such divisions. The degree to which different schools flag up genuinely irreconcilable differences, or simply reflect different historical, political and social contexts, as argued by Horowitz (1964) is a moot point.

There may also be a break between the Anarchism of old, and the so-called NEW Anarchism, as defined by Woodcock (1968). There is certainly clear antipathy between some contemporary anarchist schools of thought, exemplified in the public and vociferous disputes between e.g. anti-anarchist Bob Black and libertarian socialist Murray Bookchin. There are also boundary disputes evident in respect of new-left Marxist-anarchists vs post-left anarchists, and between libertarian socialists and anarcho-capitalists. Other contemporary developments in adjective Anarchism include: anarcho-primitivism; postAnarchism (Rousselle & Evren, 2011); and Muslim Anarchism (ignoring Nambla Bey, of course).

   Seymour (1894)  Kropotkin (1905)  Walter (2002)
 Individualism    Stirner  Godwin
 Mutualism  Proudhon
 Proudhon  Proudhon
 Communism  Kropotkin  Kropotkin
 Syndicalism    Pouget
 Collectivism    Bakunin  Bakunin
 Christian  Tolstoy  Tolstoy  

Goodway (1989) bemoans the lack of rigorous anarchist historiography. History has been dominated by the feud between Marxists and anarchists. An alternative paradigm for making sense of anarchist history if to understand Anarchism as a political tradition that takes its impetus from individualism/liberalism on the one hand, and collectivism on the other. This arguably embraces the broad school that is Anarchism leading up to the present, with the common factor being a rejection of the state. One additional historical issue is worth noting: there has not been an act of anarchist inspired violence that has resulted in death in mainland Britain since the 1911 Siege of Sydney Street.

+ Other anarchist thinkers to look out for: Octave Mirbeau (1848-1917); Nestor Makhno (1888-1934).

+ Other post-anarchist thinkers to look out for: Todd May; Saul Newman; Lewis Call.

Christoyannopoulos, A. (2011) Religious Anarchism: New Perspectives (Cambridge Scholars)
Goodway, D. (1989) For Anarchism: History, Theory, and Practice (Routledge)
Graeber, D. (2002) The New Anarchists, New Left Review, 13, p.61-73
Horowitz, I. (1964) The Anarchist (Dell Publishing)
Kropotkin, P., McKay, I. [Ed.] (2014) Direct Struggle Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology (AK Press)
Marshall, P. (2008) Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (Harper Perennial)
May, T. (2008) Death (Acumen Publishing)
Newman, S. (2001) The Politics of PostAnarchism (Edinburgh University Press)
Ritter, A. (1980/2010) Anarchism: A Theoretical Analysis (Cambridge University Press)
Rousselle, D, & Evren, S. [Eds.] (2011) Post-Anarchism: A Reader (Pluto Press)
Seymour, H. (1894) The Two Anarchisms
Tolstoy, L., Constance Garnett [Translator]  (2010) The Kingdom of God Is Within You (Rough Draft Printing)
Walter, N. (2002) About Anarchism (Freedom Press)
Woodcock, G. (1979) Anarchism (Penguin)