Member of the First International Reclus was influenced by Bakunin. A Communard fighter in 1871 who was expelled in perpetuity from France aged 41, he became the most prominent French 19th century geographer and an early ecologist and environmentalist.
Reclus was an engaged anarchist, a vegetarian and a naturist, and in his professional life a leading academic geographer. He described how he reconciled anarchism and scientific study in the 1880s and 1890s when ‘propaganda by the deed’ was being denounced everywhere in Third Republic political life and in the French media in this letter to his fellow anarchist geographers:
Great enthusiasm and dedication to the point of risking one’s life are not the only ways of serving a cause. The conscious revolutionary is not only a person of feeling, but also one of reason, to whom every effort to promote justice and solidarity rests on precise knowledge and on a comprehensive understanding of history, sociology and biologyQuoted in David Harvey “Listen, Anarchist!” A personal response to Simon Springer’s “Why a radical geography must be anarchist”
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- 77 Rue Claude Bernard. Arr5. The three Reclus brothers, Élie, Élisée and the surgeon Paul lived here in the 1860s, where they were visited among others by Courbet, Proudhon, Nadar, Bakunin and Michelet.
- 140 Rue Mouffetard. Arr5. This was the editorial office of the anarchist journal ‘La Révolte‘ launched by Kropotkin on 1 February 1885. Reclus, Pouget and Monatte wrote for it or were influenced by it. Elsewhere in the road, Élie Reclus, the eldest brother, who had been nominated Director of the National Library under the Commune, was hidden after its defeat by a family friend living in the road . From there he was able to escape to England.
- 32 Rue Gabrielle. Arr18. The journal ‘La Revue anarchiste that Reclus’ wrote for in the early 1890s was based here.
- Jardin du Luxembourg Arr6. In 1906 Émile Derré‘s sculpture, ‘The column of kisses’, originally called ‘Dream for a People’s House’, featuring Louise Michel kissing Élisée Reclus in one scene and August Blanqui in another, was installed in the Luxembourg Gardens. It stayed there until 1984 when it was replaced with a statue of Pierre Mendes France. The original sculpture is now outside the town hall in Roubaix.
- Avenue Élisée Reclus. Arr7. When the Champ-de-Mars public garden stretching from the Eiffel Tower to the Military School (Hotel des Invalides was revamped in 1907, a section of its North-Eastern side was sold to become a tree-lined avenue for wealthy Parisians named, nearly uniquely in Paris, after a man who had fought for the Paris Commune. Five years later the section still called Reclus was reduced in length by two-thirds to honour a more conservative Republican politician and academic whose son would briefly become President of France in 1920.