A Legal and Cultural History of Anarchism within the English Courts during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries




Embry, Mason

Access rights

Worldwide access

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The purpose of this thesis and my research is to further the historical understanding of how anarchism has been defined and categorized in the past. This thesis will specifically focus on how anarchism was defined within the English courts during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This thesis centers around six court cases and their trial proceedings, found using the Old Bailey’s database. Further evidence from the British Library Newspapers database is brought in to support my analysis of these cases, as well as secondary historical sources that provide necessary context to these cases. To begin my research, I first compiled a collection of histories that gave me an understanding of anarchist historiography, which is the subject of my opening thesis chapter. After doing this, I then turned to the proceedings of each of these court cases, in combination with the newspapers, and analyzed those cases in order to understand how exactly anarchism is being defined within each case. These six cases are examined in the following two chapter from the historiography chapter, each chapter focusing on three cases. The analysis in these chapters will show that anarchism association was initially created by the government to secure conviction in the courts against perceived domestic political threats. Over time, it became much more likely for an immigrant or foreigner to be labeled an anarchist more so than anyone else. The last chapter is a concluding chapter that answers the question, “so what?” In my conclusion, I argue that these cases show that anarchism was defined and associated, in English courts during that time, with perceived political threats and foreigners, which is in alignment with a larger, global rise in xenophobia.