“Statism and Anarchy: Illusion, Insurrection, and the Tragedy of the Left”
William Whitham, Princeton University
William Whitham studies the political and intellectual history of modern Europe and Russia in a global context.
His dissertation, “The Anarchist Moment: Illusion, Insurrection, and the Tragedy of the Left,” focuses on far-left militants in the southern and eastern peripheries of Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Boasting resilient networks and, in some cases, genuine trade-union organizations, anarchists were the object of no little public concern in prewar Spain, Italy, and Russia. Yet their agitation during the upheaval of the late 1910s everywhere came to naught, as anarchists became the victims and the accomplices of authoritarians who used disorder itself to consolidate and justify autocratic rule. By analyzing anarchists’ political ideas, their struggles to recruit, mobilize, and retain constituents, and the larger geopolitical context, Whitham uses anarchism to reinterpret the transformations of modern politics and the ruin of the nineteenth-century Left across the First World War.
In May 2016, Whitham passed his general examinations with distinction in fields on Europe since 1770 (Philip Nord and Anson Rabinbach), modern Russia (Stephen Kotkin and Ekaterina Pravilova), and global history since the 1850s (Kotkin).
In 2015, Whitham completed an M.Phil. in Political Thought and Intellectual History with distinction on the Eben Fiske Studentship at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, where he was awarded the Quentin Skinner Prize. In 2014, he received a B.A. in Social Studies, summa cum laude, from Harvard College, and a Hoopes prize. Whitham is affiliated with the Princeton Writing Center, Rockefeller College, and the Harvard-Cambridge Center for History and Economics.