Monday, February 20, 2006

Paul Avrich: Historian of Anarchism

Paul Avrich was an outstanding historian who specialized in anarchism. I read several of his books on Russian anarchism years ago and recommend them highly. Just this last year, I was lucky enough to find his history of Haymarket at a used bookstore. It is essential--and enjoyable--reading for anyone interested in American labor and radical history.

Infoshop News has an obituary. Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006

Radical historian, Paul Avrich, died last week. He was 74. Paul Avrich was born in New York City on August 4, 1931. He was a noted historian and professor who authored many books on anarchist history, including books on the Haymarket Riot, the Modern School Movement, the Russian Revolution and a collection of oral interviews with American anarchists titled Anarchist Voices. Avrich was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize several times and in 1984 he won the Philip Taft Labor History Award.

Avrich received his B.A. from Cornell University in 1952 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1961. Avrich taught at Queens College of the City University of New York and at Columbia University. He was a Guggenheim fellow at Columbia University in 1967-68 and a National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellow in 1972-73.

Avrich published his dissertation on "The Russian Revolution and the Factory Committees" at Columbia University in 1961. In 1967 Avrich published his first book on the history of anarchism, "The Russian Anarchists." He went on to publish many more books on anarchist history, including "The Haymarket Tragedy" in 1984 and "Sacco and Vanzetti" in 1991. Writing about Avrich's book "Kronstadt 1921" for the New York Review of Books, Alasdair MacIntyre observed that "[Avrich] gives us the closest examination of all the available evidence that we are likely to have for some time and he uses his evidence to construct a narrative that, in its most brilliant passages, matches the power of Deutscher's The Prophet Armed and Moshe Lewin's Lenin's Last Struggle."

The Library of Congress houses the Paul Avrich Collection, a collection of over twenty thousand manuscripts and publications on American and European anarchism that Avrich donated to the library.

Ronald Creagh remembered Avrich this weekend: ".I know that Paul's friendliness will remain in the minds of all who have known him, just as his scholarship will be remembered by all who have read his remarkable books. He offers his readers very extraordinary information. Perhaps
his most thought-provoking testimony is contained in his work Anarchist Voices, which is based on his careful, time-consuming interviews with hundreds of people."

AK Press ( recently re-published Anarchist Voices.

Avrich Collection at the Library of Congress

Selected Bibliography

* The Russian Anarchists, Princeton University Press, 1967.

* Kronstadt 1921, Princeton University Press, 1970.

* Russian Rebels, 1600-1800, Schocken, 1972.

* (Editor and author of introduction) Peter Kropotkin The Conquest
of Bread, Allen Lane, 1972.

* (Editor and author of introduction) Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, a Factor of Evolution, Allen Lane, 1972.

* (Editor) The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution, Cornell University Press, 1973.

* An American Anarchist: The Life of Voltairine de Cleyre, Princeton University Press, 1978.

* The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States, Princeton University Press, 1980.

* (Author of introduction) Voltairine De Cleyre, The First Mayday: The Haymarket Speeches, 1895-1910, Libertarian Book Club, 1980.

* The Haymarket Tragedy, Princeton University, 1984.

* Bakunin & Nechaev, Freedom Press, 1987.

* Anarchist Portraits, Princeton University, 1988.

* Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, Princeton University, 1991.

* Anarchist Voices: An Oral History Of Anarchism in Amreica, Princeton University, 1996.

Sources: Includes information from Contemporary Authors Online and research assistance from Radical Reference.

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