Dr Constance Bantman SFHEA FRHistS
Academic and research departmentsSchool of Literature and Languages.
I am the Deputy Head of the School of Literature and Languages (SLL) and was previously the School's Director of Learning and Teaching (2017-21). I teach French language, translation, culture and politics at all levels on the undergraduate language programme. I am the co-convenor of SLL's Mobilities Research Centre. I supervise several research students working primarily in the field of transnational history, with an emphasis on the long 19th century and/or the history of the anarchist movement. I welcome applications from postgraduate students in any of these areas. My own research focuses on the history of French anarchism from 1870 until 1939, with an emphasis on transnational networks.
I studied at the Ecole Normale Superieure (1998-2003) and Paris 13 University (2002-2006), and attended Balliol College (Oxford) as a graduate visiting student (1999-2000). I joined the University of Surrey in 2009 as Lecturer in French, having previously taught at the University of Oxford (2001-2003), Paris 13 University (2003-2006) and Imperial College London (2006-2009).
Areas of specialism
University roles and responsibilities
- Deputy Head of School
- Director of Learning and Teaching
- Senior Lecturer in French
- Trained Panel Member
"Anarchismes et anarchistes en France et en Grande-Bretagne (1880-1914): Echanges, representations, transferts"
In the media
My broad research area is French and British political and social history between 1880 and 1914. My research focuses on the history of French political exiles in Britain and anarchist transnationalism between 1880 and 1914, with a focus on ideological and political transfers, experiences of political exile, the asylum question in the long nineteenth century as well as the history of terrorism. These questions were the focus of my doctoral research and 2013 monograph, The French Anarchists in London (1880-1914): Exile and Transnationalism in the First Globalisation (LUP, 2013), as well as a number of journal publications.
I am also interested in the history of print and journalism from a transnational perspective. In 2017, I published a co-edited volume of essays on the history of the foreign political press in London from the early 18th century to the early 20th: The Foreign Political in Nineteenth-Century London: Politics from a Distance (with Ana Claudia Suriani da Silva; Bloomsbury, 2017).
I am currently completing a biography of the French anarchist editor, writer, publisher, campaigner and educationalist Jean Grave (1854-1939), to be published by Palgrave McMillan in 2020. This monograph reassesses the importance of Grave in the organisation of the French and international anarchist movements before 1914, examining theoretical questions relating to print activism and the role of anarchism as a counter-cultural movement.
Indicators of esteem
I am on the editorial board of the journals Anarchist Studies and the Journal for the Study of Radicalism.
Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2018.
I am a reviewer for The American Historical Review, Anarchist Studies, The Historical Journal, H-Net/H-HistSex, International Review of Social History, Journal of Historical Geography, The Labour History Review, Modern and Contemporary France, Revue d’histoire du XIXe siècle, The Political Quarterly, Theoretical Criminology, Vingtième Siècle; Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris (postdoctoral application reviewer), Royal Society (Fellowship application reviewer).
I have reviewed book proposals and manuscripts for Cambridge University Press, Cornell University Press, Liverpool University Press.
Postgraduate research supervision
-Gursimran Oberoi: 'Global Watt: Allegories for All (1880-1980'. (2017-...). In collaboration with Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey. Funded by AHRC-Techne.
-Wafik Doss: 'Trail of a Syllable'. (2016-...). Secondary supervisor.
-Jessica Thorne, 'Laboratories of Dissent: A cartography of anarchist resistance to Franco in prison and in exile, 1960-1975', Funded by AHRC-Techne (Secondary supervisor; Primary supervisor: Prof. Helen Graham, RHUL).-
-Giacinto Palmieri: 'Oral self-translation of stand-up comedy: from mental text to performance and interaction'. (2015-2017). Secondary supervisor. Funded by AHRC-Techne.
I teach French language and content modules at all undergraduate levels, and also supervise dissertations.
I currently supervise doctoral research in the fields of transnational political and cultural history, and welcome proposals in these areas as well as those relating more specifically to nineteenth-century French history and the history of the anarchist movement.
Courses I teach on
Jean Grave and the Networks of French Anarchism (Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan, 2021)
The French Anarchists in London (1880-1914): Exile and Transnationalism in the First Globalisation (Liverpool: LUP, 2013)
With Ana Claudia Suriani da Silva, The London Foreign Political Press in Nineteenth-Century London: Politics from a Distance (London: Bloomsbury, 2017)
With Bert Altena, Reassessing the Transnational Turn: Scales of Analysis in Anarchist and Syndicalist Studies (1st ed. Routledge, 2015, 2nd ed. PM Press, 2017)
With Dave Berry, New Perspectives on Anarchism, Labour and Syndicalism: The Individual, the National and the Transnational (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010)
'The Era of Propaganda by the Deed', in Matthew Adams and Carl Levy (eds.), Palgrave Handbook of Anarchism, Palgrave, 2018, pp. 371-87.
This article reviews three recent books on the history of the late nineteenth-century French anarchist movement—one by the French historian Vivien Bouhey and the other two by American scholars, Alexander McKinley and John Merriman. It replaces these works in the context of a renewed interest in the study of the anarchist movement, as an early example of transnational terrorist organisation, and as a relevant field of application for the historiographic concepts of network and transnationalism. In conclusion, it highlights the differences between French and US approaches to the study of anarchism, and evidences the limits of the ‘transnational turn’ in this particular historical field.
This collection presents exciting new research on the history of anarchist movements and their relation to organised labour, notably revolutionary syndicalism. Bringing together internationally acknowledged authorities as well as younger researchers, all specialists in their field, it ranges across Europe and from the late nineteenth century to the beginnings of the Cold War. National histories are revisited through transnational perspectives—on Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Poland or Europe as a whole—evidencing a great wealth of cross-border interactions and reciprocal influences between regions and countries. Emphasis is also placed on individual activist itineraries—whether of renowned figures such as Errico Malatesta or of lesser-known yet equally fascinating characters, whose trajectories offer fresh perspectives on the complex interplay of regional and national political cultures, evolving political ideologies, activist networks and the individual. The volume will be of interest to specialists working on the history of anarchism and/or trade unionism as well as the political or social history of the countries concerned; but it will also be useful to students and the general reader looking for discussion of the most recent thinking on the historiography of labour and anarchist movements or those wanting a comprehensive overview of the history of syndicalism.
This edited volume reassesses the ongoing transnational turn in anarchist and syndicalist studies, a field where the interest in cross-border connections has generated much innovative literature in the last decade. It presents and extends up-to-date research into several dynamic historiographic fields, and especially the history of the anarchist and syndicalist movements and the notions of transnational militancy and informal political networks. Whilst restating the relevance of transnational approaches, especially in connection with the concepts of personal networks and mediators, the book underlines the importance of other scales of analysis in capturing the complexities of anarchist militancy, due to both their centrality as a theme of reflection for militants, and their role as a level of organization. Especially crucial is the national level, which is often overlooked due to the internationalism which was so central to anarchist ideology. And yet, as several chapters highlight, anarchist discourses on the nation (as opposed to the state), patriotism and even race, were more nuanced than is usually assumed. The local and individual levels are also shown to be essential in anarchist militancy.
This article proposes a biographical approach to the study of anarchist activism, applied to the French journalist, editor, theorist, novelist, educator, and campaigner Jean Grave, one of the most influential figures in the French and international anarchist movement between the late 1870s and the First World War. Adopting a relational approach delineating Grave’s formal and informal connections, it focuses on the role of print in Grave’s activism, through the three papers he edited between 1883 and 1914, and highlights his transnational connections and links with progressive circles in France. Due to the central place of both Grave and his publications in the French anarchist movement, this biographical and relational approach provides a basis to reassess the functioning and key strategic orientations of French anarchist communism during its “heroic period” (1870s-1914), by stressing its transnational ramifications and links beyond the anarchist movement.
The political activities of the 450 or so French-speaking anarchists exiled in Great Britain between 1880 and 1914 have recently been the subject of diverging historiographical assessments. The terrorist motive, which the movement's contemporaries were so concerned with, has been taken up by several studies. Yet a transnational approach brings out a very different interpretation: that of a group with a predominantly informal organisation (against the myth of the "anarchist International"), overwhelmed with basic material preoccupations, and more inclined to strategic thinking concerning the revolutionary potential of trade unions than to terrorist pursuits. In the light of this analysis, it is therefore more fruitful to describe London's "French quarter", not as a terrorist outpost, but rather as a node of networks and transfers for the international anarchist movement.
This article proposes a political reassessment of the long period of time spent in London by the French Communard-turned-anarchist Louise Michel (1890-1905). It emphasises the breadth of her militant repertoire as well as her very concrete engagement in specific political projects, and highlights the coherence of her political outlook and activities. This perspective challenges predominantly masculinist portrayals of Michel, which focus heavily on sentiment as an explanation for her political activism, and downplay her overall agency as a militant. It also highlights the limitations of methodological nationalism in analysing Michel’s activities in exile. Four key aspects are examined: Michel’s print and open-air propaganda; her network-building activities; her contribution to libertarian pedagogies through the ‘International socialist school’ which she set up in Fitzrovia in the early 1890s; and her campaigning activities for the defence of the right of asylum and support for political refugees, at a time when liberal understandings of asylum were being questioned.
This article is a study of the transnational activism of the French anarchist militant Emile Pouget (1860–1931), from his early days in the 1880s as an agitator and as the editor of the scathing anarchist weekly Père Peinard, through to his key role in the spread of revolutionary syndicalism in France and beyond. Against dominant representations focusing on his substantial journalistic and organizational propaganda exclusively within national boundaries, it suggests that Pouget did start off as a locally-minded militant in the 1880s, but later became aware of the great importance of international organization. This contribution depicts Pouget’s year of exile in Britain (1894–1895) as the turning point leading to a greater international emphasis in his activism. Through Pouget, the usually unheeded transnational ramifi cations of belle-époque anarchism and syndicalism are highlighted, as well as the relevance of militant biography for the study of transnational networks and ideological dissemination.
In a period of turmoil when European and international politics were in constant reshaping, immigrants and political exiles living in London set up periodicals which contributed actively to national and international political debates. Reflecting an interdisciplinary and international discussion, this book offers a rare long-term specialist perspective into the cosmopolitan and multilingual world of the foreign political press in London, with an emphasis on periodicals published in European languages. It furthers current research into political exile, the role of print culture and personal networks as intercultural agents and the dynamics of transnational political and cultural exchange in global capitals. Individual chapters deal with Brazilian, French, German, Indian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Spanish American, and Russian periodicals. Overarching themes include a historical survey of foreign political groups present in London throughout the long 19th century and the causes and movements they championed; analyses of the press in local and transnational contexts; and a focus on its actors and on the material conditions in which this press was created and disseminated.
This volume explores the history, roles and functioning of the foreign political press in London in the long nineteenth century, from a political, social, cultural and editorial perspective. Bringing together contributions by political and cultural historians and literary studies specialists, it builds on research into exile and transnational political activism conducted in the last twenty years or so, in which the press and print activism always feature as key themes but without a detailed analysis of their role in daily life and politics, nor with a comparative focus. Tellingly, the comprehensive Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History (2009) does not include a specific entry on press history. Neither have historians of the British press examined in depth the extraterritorial political press, aside from colonial and imperial contexts, which have received much attention. It would certainly be unfair to claim that the transnational turn has bypassed press history, as evidenced for instance by some comparative studies, sections on globalization and transnational exchanges in Journalism and the Periodical Press in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2017) and the forthcoming (2018) Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, 1800–1900 respectively, and the work conducted in recent years by the Transnational network for the study of foreign-language press, Transfopress, as well as networks with a wider remit, such as the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP) and the European Society for Periodical Research (ESPRit). The Waterloo Directory of Victorian Periodicals covers foreign titles extensively, while the editors of the 2016 Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth Century Periodicals and Newspapers ‘interpret “Britain” … as an extendable conceptual, geographic, and political space that often overlaps with locations of other social groupings not just of nations but of reading communities’, and the Handbook includes a stimulating section on the ‘Geographies’ of newspapers and periodicals.13 More specifically, the Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism acknowledges the significant contribution to the British political press of prominent European radicals such as Karl Marx, Giuseppe Mazzini, Louis Kossuth and Peter Kropotkin. Growing awareness of the cross-border dimensions of media history has led to a recent call to reframe predominantly national histories of media and communication in a transnational perspective.
The French and British trade union organisations of the 1880-1914 period are usually presented as antagonistic, British trade unionism being financially powerful and predominantly conservative, connected in turn with the Liberal Party and the Labour Party set up in 1893, while French unions were numerically weak, fiercely independent from political power, and preached revolutionary methods. This opposition is epitomised by the contrast between the powerful and conservative Trade Union Congress and, on the other hand, the CGT, the French trade union confederation set up in 1895, with its adamant rejection of political alliances formalised by the iconic 1906 Charte d’Amiens. These oppositions are often taken to reflect profound differences in the political orientations of skilled workers (with the contrast between France’s radical artisans and Britain’s labour aristocracy), and in the maturity of industrial development (between France’s decentralised and workshop-based production system and Britain’s more advanced industrialisation). In spite of these partly debatable alleged ideological and socioeconomic differences, the years between 1880 and 1914 saw an intense exchange of ideas and tactics between France and Britain, as trade union organisation and ideology underwent rapid changes on both sides of the Channel. The British organisations evolved from the reformist and elitist culture of the mid-Victorian social consensus into larger, more democratic and combative “new unions”.1 In France, the trade union movement remained very weak during the 1880s, until the development of the CGT and its formal rejection from parliamentary politics at the turn of the century, triumphant at first, then increasingly problematic.2 In both countries, these years witnessed a succession of periods of strength and decline, in ideological and numerical terms. For these two rapidly-changing movements, developments occurring across the Channel provided both an example and a counter-example through which they could define and reinvent themselves. This chapter maps out these ideological transfers within the revolutionary branch of the international labour movement, insisting on the personal networks underpinning these exchanges and on the processes of reinterpretation and adaptation such cross-influences required. It focuses on the “ideological” level, rather than the grassroots and organisational levels3: it is a study in transnational exchanges of ideas and debates, which leaves aside the question of the actual impact of these ideas on their intended audiences, the workers.
While the multifaceted interplay of anarchism with art, as well as the visual and literary culture of Belle Époque anarchism have been researched extensively, the relationship between syndicalism and creative arts remains largely unexplored. This chapter traces the mobilisation of arts in the context of pre-1914 French syndicalism, as a propagandist device as well as a prefigurative practice. It argues that art remained integral to the discourse and propaganda of the French syndicalists: access to art was also pivotal to the syndicalist vision and the educational project which lay at its core, as visible in particular in the importance attached to education by French syndicalists, and the place of arts within it. As in the anarchist period, these practices and concerns had transnational ramifications, and a similar interest in art may be observed in other countries. However, the relationship between art and syndicalism was both less symbiotic and more inclusive than in 1890s anarchism, in terms of ideals, propaganda and militant personnel. This difference was important in distinguishing both movements on a variety of levels: the lesser centrality of art to syndicalism partly accounted for its perception as being institutional and narrowly “workerist”. However, syndicalism deployed a broader and less elitist cultural strategy to convey its political message and strategies – thus acting out and shaping a different understanding of political and artistic vanguardism.
This chapter traces the ideological genesis of the notion of ‘propaganda by the deed’, recounts the terrorist wave which it partly inspired in the 1880s–1920s and highlights the contemporary legacies of the concept and its terrorist ramifications. The elaboration of propaganda by the deed as an activist strategy in the last years of the First International is charted, as well as subsequent, narrower reinterpretations of propaganda by the deed focusing on violence as the means to achieve political goals. The four-decade anarchist terrorist wave and its complex links with propaganda by the deed are then examined, highlighting tensions between the systematic characterisation of anarchism as a terrorist movement and actual internal divisions regarding the use of political violence. The third section surveys the explanations for both the rise and eventual decline of political violence, in particular the deployment of policing on a variety of scales as a response to terrorism. The widespread contemporary interest in the era of propaganda by the deed is highlighted, with a focus on academic debates exploring the possible parallels between anarchist terrorism and post-2001 Islamist-inspired attacks.
This chapter charts four decades of anarchist presence in London through the prisms of space and perception. Through its rich history of exile, London had by the end of the nineteenth century become a connotated space, a palimpsest. The most literate and educated anarchist exiles were certainly conscious of walking in the footsteps of illustrious refugees, as evidenced by regular references to the generations of revolutionaries who had preceded them in London. These nodded primarily to the post-1848 waves, as journalists noted for instance that the anarchists congregated in one of the rooms of St Martin’s Hall, where the International Working Men’s Association had been set up in 1864, or inscribed themselves in the Communards’ lineage: ‘One street in the French quarter has conquered fame: it is Charlotte Street and, on this road, one house deserves the honours of history: it is that of Victor Richard, the faithful friend of Vallès and Séverine’. This historical perspective also informed the eyes of beholders, although they were more likely to stress the different character of the anarchists, and especially the discontinuity with the previous, morally noble generations of exiles and the peak of French presence in London: How many French [in London]? A lot less than one may think. One should not assume that the streets of Soho and Fitzroy have regained since the recent explosions the very special character which they had after the Commune. A few rare French shop-fronts among the shop-fronts, a few vaguely familiar figures in Charlott-Street [sic] and in Wind-mill-Street [sic] and that’s it. The importance of this historical lineage means that the London years of the French anarchists can be read both in continuity and in contrast with the preceding waves of revolutionary exile, including from the point of view of outside observers who constantly compared the anarchists with their illustrious predecessors. Their growing hostility and the polemics provoked by the anarchists’ presence – suspected as well as seen – turned London into a contested space. The novelty which this presence represented must also be stressed, in order to convey the sense of puzzlement expressed by contemporaries – and by the exiles themselves – upon seeing or even just imagining these hundreds of individuals recreating an anarchist ‘Petite France’ in the streets of Soho and Fitzrovia. Their dismay stemmed from the fear of anarchist terrorism, because of the well-established reputation of the French as dynamitards or bombistes, but also from a culture shock, as these comrades were often described as quintessentially French artisans, settling down in London in the heyday of the Victorian Age; the written testimonies left by the French in London as well as by the British observers of these groups testify to the same impression of strangeness and otherness, often conveyed by a close attention to details revealing cultural differences and idiosyncrasies. This chapter emphasises the physicality of this anarchist presence by examining different scales in turn, from the international level – why, of all places, did the anarchists settle in Britain? – to the very local, investigating anarchist public and private spaces.
This chapter offers a long-term assessment of French exile journalism in the second half of the nineteenth century, revealing continuities often ignored by a historiography largely focused on distinct and chronologically separate political communities. London’s role as an outpost of French politics and publishing long predated this period, most notably with the Huguenot refuge and French Revolution émigrés, but the second half of the nineteenth century perpetuated and reinvented well-established cultures of exile, in which radical journalism played a prominent role. After 1848, and especially from the winter of 1851–2, the growing French exile presence in Britain was mostly concentrated in London. While strongly disliked by many French exiles, London also had much to offer: the discretion afforded by a sprawling metropolis, geographic proximity to France, an established French-speaking community with dense support networks and above all a lack of repressive legislation against foreign exiles....
This book is a study of political exile and transnational activism in the late-Victorian period. It explores the history of about 500 French-speaking anarchists who lived in exile in London between 1880 and 1914, with a close focus on the 1890s, when their presence peaked. These individuals sought to escape intense repression in France, at a time when anarchist-inspired terrorism swept over the Western world. Until the 1905 Aliens Act, Britain was the exception in maintaining a liberal approach to the containment of anarchism and terrorism; it was therefore the choice destination of international exiled anarchists, just as it had been for previous generations of revolutionary exiles throughout the nineteenth century. These French groups in London played a strategic role in the reinvention of anarchism at a time of crisis, but also triggered intense moral panic in France, Britain and beyond. This study retraces the lives of these largely unknown individuals – how they struggled to get by in the great late-Victorian metropolis, their social and political interactions among themselves, with other exiled groups and their host society. The myths surrounding their rumoured terrorist activities are examined, as well as the constant overt and covert surveillance which French and British intelligence services kept over them. The debates surrounding the controversial asylum granted to international anarchists, and especially the French, are presented, showing their role in the redefinition of British liberalism. The political legacy of these ‘London years’ is also analysed, since exile contributed to the formation of small but efficient transnational networks, which were pivotal to the development and international dissemination of syndicalism and, less successfully, to anti-war propaganda in the run up to 1914.
This chapter explores the transfers between French and British trade unionism between 1880 and 1914, and the transnational elaboration of syndicalism in this period. The role of press exchanges and informal personal networks of influential militants is emphasized, as is the fact that influences between French and British militants travelled both ways - not simply from France to Great Britain, as is often assumed. Discourses on these cross-influences by contemporaries are also examined, in order to show that the transnational dimension of syndicalism was perceived and discussed at the time, often in terms of national character. The notable differences between these two brands of syndicalism are also examined, especially regarding the role of the state and the place of antimilitarism.
In the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, and especially in the 1890s, anarchists were a small but highly publicised dissident group in many British cities, and especially in London. The identification of the anarchist movement as one of the most striking instances of deviancy by public opinion makes it a relevant case study of non-normative behaviour and its treatment by authorities. This contribution briefly presents the political and economic context from which the anarchist movement emerged, and the modalities of antisocial behaviour with which anarchists came to be associated in public opinion, as expressed in the conservative and tabloid press, parliamentary debates as well as influential theoretical works. Two key aspects emerge from the anarchist example. The first one is the link between immigration, political radicalism and perceived deviancy. Secondly, how the control of public space – especially the street and high-profile meeting places such as Hyde Park and Trafalgar square – became a stake in the battle between the state and anarchists, which hinged on issues of law and order, public visibility and political legitimacy. This must be understood in a context of growing labour militancy, which blurred the boundaries between social unrest and crime in public minds.