Anarchism in Europe
Run by School of History, Law and Social Sciences
20.000 Credits or 10.000 ECTS Credits
Organiser: Dr Alexander Sedlmaier
Overall aims and purpose
This module explores the history of different European anarchist movements since the late nineteenth century: their thinking, their activities in key historical events and their social, cultural, and political context. In examining major anarchist thinkers like Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman and others, the course endeavours to promote an understanding of ideas and theories of anarchism as an important chapter in the history of political ideas, transcending prevalent stereotypes of bearded bomb-throwers. The module also investigates public debates and political consequences triggered by real or alleged acts of terror. Furthermore, our seminars will be concerned with anarchism as part of broader emancipation and labour movements. To gain a fuller understanding of the historical search for spheres free from state influence and for autonomous, non-hierarchical spaces, the module begins with an examination of the historical roots of anarchism prior to the twentieth century, and ends with an analysis of the representation of anarchism in literature and art.
Indicative course content list: • Background: a historical introduction to anarchism – definitions and history of concepts: ‘anarchy’, ‘anarchism’ • Peter Kropotkin • Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread • Anarchy and terror: the Bonnot Gang – violence and counter-violence • From terrorism to general strike: anarcho-syndicalism in France (CGT) and Italy (USI) • Anarcho-syndicalism in Germany • The Makhnovshchina (anarchist Ukraine), 1917–1921 • ‘The world’s most dangerous woman’: Emma Goldman • Anarchism in the Spanish Civil War, 1936/37 • Anarchism in practice? Catalonia, Aragon, and Andalusia • Libertarian influences in the ‘1968’ student protests • ‘1968’ in West Germany • Anarchism in literature and film: Conrad’s The Secret Agent • Poetry and Anarchism: Herbert Read
Excellent students (A- and above) will show strong achievement across all the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis. In written work, they will support their arguments with a wealth of relevant detail/examples. They will also demonstrate an acute awareness of the relevant historiography and give an account of why the conclusions reached are important within a particular historical debate. They may show a particularly subtle approach to possible objections, nuancing their argument in the light of counter examples, or producing an interesting synthesis of various contrasting positions. Primary sources will be used imaginatively or even innovatively and will show a detailed analysis of individual passages and suggest potentially significant things about their wider significance.
C- to C+
Above threshold: Students in this band (C- to C+) will demonstrate a satisfactory range of achievement or depth of knowledge of most parts of the module, and will make successful, if occasionally inconsistent, attempts to develop those skills appropriate to the study of History at undergraduate level. In the case of the written assessments, the answers will attempt to focus on the question, although might drift into narrative, and will show some evidence of solid reading and research. The argument might lose direction and might not be adequately clear at the bottom of this category. Written work will be presented reasonably well with only limited errors in grammar, punctuation, and referencing, and not to the extent that they obscure meaning. There will be some solid citing of primary sources, but largely as illustrations to arguments gleaned from secondary works, and in analysis of individual passages, a reasonable context will be provided, but there will be little deep understanding of the passage itself.
Good students (B- to B+) will demonstrate a solid level of achievement and depth of knowledge in all the criteria in the C- to C+ range and will in addition exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical writing and historiographical interpretation. Ideas will be communicated effectively, and written work will include a good range of sources/reading and demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and of the existing interpretations expressed in a well-structured, relevant, and focused argument. Students at the top end of this band will engage with and critique the ideas that they come across and synthesise the various interpretations they find to reach their own considered conclusions. Written work will be correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate. Primary sources will be central to arguments, in interpretations of individual passages, a good context will be provided, and the passage will be used to make detailed points about the topic.
Threshold students (D- and D) will have done only a minimum of reading, and their work will often be based partly on rough internet searches and/or basic textbooks. They will demonstrate in their written assessments some knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partially successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies, but they will fail to discuss some large and vital aspects of a topic; and/or deploy only some relevant material but partly fail to combine it into a coherent whole; and/or deploy some evidence to support individual points but often fail to do so and/or show difficulty weighing evidence (thereby relying on unsuitable or irrelevant evidence when making a point). Alternatively, or additionally, the presentation of the work might also be poor, with bad grammar and/or punctuation, careless typos and spelling errors, and a lack of effective and correct referencing. Engagement with primary sources will be basic, and no attempt will be made to analyse passages beyond some broad explanation of context.
Present clear, evidence-based, and cogent historical arguments.
Demonstrate a close familiarity with a range of primary sources concerning anarchism in the twentieth century, analyse these sources, and use them in historical arguments.
Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of various European anarchist thinkers and movements in the twentieth century.
Judge between competing interpretations of anarchism and its context (including current historiographical positions).
Analyse individual pieces of historical evidence very closely – particularly setting them in context, judging their qualities as evidence, and explaining their significance.
requiring an analysis of an area of the topic
requiring short comments on extracts from primary documents (gobbets)
Teaching and Learning Strategy
Seminars will allow students to discuss the issues around anarchism; the sessions will concentrate on analysis of primary sources. There will be two 1.5-hour seminars each week for the first ten weeks of the semester (in some cases substituted by film-screenings or drop-in tutorials).
drop-in tutorials for revision and assessment preparation
film screenings with subsequent discussion
Preparation for seminars drawing on assigned reading, revision for exam, and preparation of course essay.
- Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
- Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
- Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
- Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
- Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
- Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
- Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
- Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
- Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
- Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
Subject specific skills
- problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
- understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
- being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
- being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
- producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
- planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
- marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
- presenting effective oral presentations for different kinds of audiences, including academic and/or audiences with little knowledge of history
- preparing effective written communications for different readerships
- making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
- making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
- appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
- critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions
- engaging with relevant aspects of current agendas such as global perspectives, public engagement, employability, enterprise, and creativity
Resource implications for students
none, other than perhaps the purchase of a few books
Talis Reading listhttp://readinglists.bangor.ac.uk/modules/hsh-3044.html
Core texts: M.S. Adams and N.J. Jun, “Political theory and history: the case of anarchism”, Journal of Political Ideologies 20,3 (2015), 244–262; C. Bantman and B. Altena (eds), Reassessing the Transnational Turn: Scales of Analysis in Anarchist and Syndicalist Studies (2015); R. Kinna, The Government of No One: The Theory and Practice of Anarchism (2019); C. Levy and S. Newman (eds), The Anarchist Imagination: Anarchism Encounters the Humanities and the Social Sciences (2019); P.H. Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (1991); G. Woodcock, Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (1962); G. Woodcock (ed.), The Anarchist Reader (1977) Recommended reading: J. Joll, The Anarchists (1964); P. McLaughlin, Anarchism and authority: a philosophical introduction to classical anarchism (2007); D. Miller, Anarchism (1984); A. Ritter, Anarchism: a theoretical analysis (1980); A. Vincent, Modern Political Ideologies (1995); L. van der Walt and M. Schmidt, Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (2009); C. Ward, Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (2004)