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KNEPPER, Paul. "The other invisible hand: Jews and anarchists in London before the First World War"
Article published on 21 October 2011
last modification on 20 June 2016

by r-c.
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Jewish History (2008) 22: 295–315

Author’s abstract

In the decades before the First World War, London worried about anarchist outrages, and particularly, about Jews said to instigate them. Jewish anarchists were rumoured to have been responsible for the ‘ripper’ murders in Whitechapel (1888), an attempt to blow up the Royal Observatory at Greenwich Park (1894) and the Houndsditch murders (1910)/Sidney Street affair (1911). Jews were a visible population in the East End, and editors, MPs, and police authorities offered Jewishness to explain the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of anarchist violence. Jews were also thought to have the capacity to become invisible, ‘outsiders’ who could pass for ‘insiders’. In the radical press, and fictionalised accounts in novels such as Conrad’s The Secret Agent, the image of the Jewish anarchist became that of agent provocateur paid by police to infiltrate and undermine the movement. Jews were said to operate behind-the-scenes, manipulating the economy and political structure. The invisible hand of the market and the invisible hand of anarchism were attached to a Jewish body.


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