The Possibilities of Anarchist History: Rethinking the Canon and Writing History

By Matthew Adams

While the study of anarchism has undergone a renaissance in recent years, historical scholarship has been a relatively minor aspect of this renewed focus. Presenting an historiographical examination of the main forms of writing on anarchist ideas, this article argues that the predominance of ‘canonistic’ approaches to anarchism is in part a consequence of the disciplinary dominance of political theory in the study of anarchism.

Despite anarchism’s complex intellectual history, intellectual historians continue to overlook this rich political tradition. The article concludes by reflecting on the possibilities offered by an intellectual history of anarchism informed by recent methodological developments in cultural history. Not only does this allow us to see beyond the canon, but it also offers new insights on anarchism’s most influential thinkers.


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