Yale Library Book Talk: American Anarchy by Michael Willrich
Michael Willrich, Leff Families Professor of History at Brandeis University, will present on his new book “American Anarchy: The Epic Struggle between Immigrant Radicals and the US Government at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century.”
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. Drawing on sources including collections found at Yale’s Beinecke Library, “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.
At Brandeis, Willrich teaches undergraduate courses and graduate seminars on American political and legal history (from the colonial period to the present), crime and punishment in U.S. history, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and the literature of American history. He is the author of two other books and a former journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, Washington City Paper, and Mother Jones.