University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2015
EventUtopia! Experiments in Perfection - Spirella Building, Letchworth, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Nov 201512 Nov 2015

Conference

ConferenceUtopia! Experiments in Perfection
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityLetchworth
Period12/11/1512/11/15

Abstract

Ebenezer Howard’s book Garden Cities of Tomorrow (1898), referred to the precedents for his ideas in the writings of Prince Peter Kropotkin and William Morris.

Kropotkin was pre-Revolutionary socialist, who, prior to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, theorised an anarchist [ie. without a centralised government and associated administrative bureaucracy] theory of a potential utopian form of social existence. Like the English utopian socialist, William Morris (who may have drawn on Kropotkin’s work), Kropotkin’s ideal was of a semi-agrarian idyll as set out in his book, Farms, Fields and Factories (1898), comprising both intellectual and physical labour. Kropotkin was also very interested in the new discourse area of eugenics, and prominently participated in debates during the 1912 International Congress of Eugenics in London, defending euthenical ideas of a healthy lifestyle.

This paper asks three questions. Firstly: Why should Ebenezer Howard reference the ideas of a Russian anarchist, in relation to the utopian ideal of the Garden City as a possible element of a capitalist economic structure? Secondly: was Kropotkin reciprocally interested in Letchworth? Thirdly: did Kropotkin ever visit Letchworth?

In relation to these questions I will argue firstly that Howard's reference to Kropotkin may have been bases on how Kropotkin was contemporarily perceived in Britain– as a serious scientific, academic writer, rather than a dangerous anarchist. I will also argue that not only was Kropotkin interested in the Letchworth experiment, but most probably visited the Garden City at least once.

Notes

Patricia Simpson, ‘Prince Peter Kropotkin: Anarchism, Eugenics and the Utopian Ideal of Letchworth Garden City’, paper presented at Utopia! Experiments in Perfection, Letchworth Garden City, UK, 12 November, 2015.

Activities

ID: 9932386