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louise michel and the international school

One of the first libertarian schools in Britain.

Louise Michel was born in 1830 in Vroncourt, France and was a revolutionary who fought on the barricades of the Paris Commune. She trained as a school teacher. When she came to London she opened a school for the children of political refugees (The International School. 19 Fitzroy Square, W1). It was, according to John Shotton, probably the first libertarian school to be founded in Britain - and proved to be popular among the significant numbers of free thinkers in the area.

Michel included a statement by Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian anarchist in her prospectus:

All rational education is at bottom nothing but this progressive immolation of authority for the benefit of liberty, the final object of education necessarily being the formation of free men full of respect, and love for the liberty of others.

No subjects were compulsory in the school, teaching was in small groups, there was an emphasis on rational and integral education - on students learning to think for themselves. It was fairly common for groups of children would bring their own ideas to teachers about what to study. The school was closed in 1892 or 1893 after the police were said to have discovered bomb-making equipment in the basement - even though Louise Michel was not implicated.


The detail included here is largely taken from John Shotton (1993) No Master High or Low. Libetarian Education and Schooling 1890 - 1990, Bristol: Libertarian Education, pp. 33 - 35.

This page is part of our virtual walk around the history of informal education (in central London). 

Walking for real: If you would like to do the informal education walk for real then why not join us on our next scheduled walk. It's free! Follow the link for joining details.

Prepared by Mark K. Smith
© Mark K. Smith
First published August 7, 1997.
Last update: March 30, 2005



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