American Anarchy: The Epic Struggle Between Immigrant Radicals and the US Government at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century

Regular price $ 35.00

by Michael Willrich

Basic Books

10/31/2023, hardcover

SKU: 9781541697379


A "lively, fast-paced history" (Adam Hochschild, bestselling author of King Leopold's Ghost) of America's anarchist movement and the government's tireless efforts to destroy it

In the early twentieth century, anarchists like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman championed a radical vision of a world without states, laws, or private property. Militant and sometimes violent, anarchists were heroes to many working-class immigrants. But to many others, anarchism was a terrifyingly foreign ideology. Determined to crush it, government officials launched a decades-long "war on anarchy," a brutal program of spying, censorship, and deportation that set the foundations of the modern surveillance state. The lawyers who came to the anarchists' defense advanced groundbreaking arguments for free speech and due process, inspiring the emergence of the civil liberties movement.

American Anarchy tells the gripping tale of the anarchists, their allies, and their enemies, showing how their battles over freedom and power still shape our public life.


"Drawing heavily on primary sources, including court records and correspondence, Willrich combines a riveting legal narrative with an astute analysis of American political history. It's a revealing study of an overlooked foundation of American notions of liberty." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This is an important, crucial purchase. Readers interested in the U.S. legal system, civil rights, and the history of American radical movements should definitely check out this title." -- Library Journal (starred review)

About the Author:

Michael Willrich is the Leff Families Professor of History at Brandeis University and a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow. He is the author of two award-winning books, City of Courts and Pox: An American History, and his writing has been published in the New York Times, the New Republic, and Mother Jones. He lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.