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Elisée Reclus

Born: March 15, 1830

Died: July 4, 1905

Ishill, Joseph. (1927). Elisée and Elie Reclus: In Memoriam.
Including: tributes, appreciations and essays by Elie Faure, Prof. Albert Heim, Jean Grave [and others] fragments, letters, and ... woodcuts by Louis Moreau. Compiled, ed. and printed by Joseph Ishill. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Oriole Press.

Hidalgo, H. Spanish Biography.

Biographical entry from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, pages 957-58.

Obituary from the London Telegraph, reprinted in the New York Times, July 24, 1905.
Obituary written by Kropotkin


1830 – Reclus is born in Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Gironde, France on March 15th to Jacques Reclus and Zéline Trigant

1831 – Father leaves Sainte-Foy and Reclus is left with his grandparents in Laroche

1838 – Reunited with his family in Casteetarbes

1842 – Travels to Neuwied, Germany for schooling and learns multiple languages at the multinational school of the Moravian Brothers

1844 – Rejoins with his older brother Elie at the Protestant College of Sainte-Foy

1848 – Moves to Montauban to study theology with Elie. Is advised to leave Mantabaun owning to his defiance of his teachers and travels the Mediterranean after which he leaves for Strasbourg to study theology

1849 – Teaches for the Moravian brothers in Neuwied

Jan 1851 –Resigns from his teaching post at Neuwied to study at the University of Berlin where he attends many lectures by the noted geographer Carl Ritter

1851 – As a 21 year old scholar Reclus publishes the essay "Development of Liberty in the World," which lays the foundation for this mature thinking. In it he argues that "For each particular man liberty is an end, but it is only a means to attain love, to attain universal brotherhood." In this work he also lays the groundwork for his anarchist ideals stating that, "Our destiny is to arrive at that state of ideal perfection where nations no longer have any need to be under the tutelage of a government or any other nation. It is the absence of government; it is anarchy, the highest expression of order."

Dec 1851 – Returns to France to oppose Napoleon’s coup but he and his brother are then forced to leave to England

1852 – Reclus works as a tutor in London and then Dublin

Early 1853 – Reclus travels to New Orleans. In New Orleans he works as a dockworker and also as a tutor. This trip represents an important stage in the development of his social and political ideas. During his time in Louisiana Reclus became staunchly opposed to slavery and racism and was strengthened in his belief in the inhumanity of capitalism

1855 – Reclus leaves the US for Panama, from there he heads to Columbia via smaller ships and spends a year and a half planning a plantation venture

July 1, 1857 – Reclus falls ill in South America and returns to Paris

December 14, 1858 – Marries Clarisse Brian of Sainte-Foy, daughter of a French sea captain and a "mulatto" Senegalese woman, and moves in with his brother Elie and his wife Noemi in Paris

1860 – Reclus' first daughter Magali is born

1860's – Reclus spends long amounts of time traveling and conducting research for many travel guides for the publishing firm Hachette. During this time Reclus also completes the first of the three great geographical projects of his life, the two-volume study La Terre: description des phénomènes de la vie du globe. During this time he was involved with the Freemasons, the Freethinkers before, in the mid-60s joining the secret International Alliance of Social Democracy of Michael Bakunin, and the League for Peace and Freedom

1861 – Reclus publishes Voyage à la Sierra Nevada

1862 – Reclus is invited to join the Société de Géographie de Paris

1863 – Reclus' second daughter Jeannie is born

1863 – Reclus and his brother Elie found the Banque Coopérative du Crédit au Travail

1864 – Reclus publishes Les Volcans et les Tremblements de Terre

1864 – Elisée and Elie help to co-found the first Rochdale-type cooperative in Paris: L'Association générale d'approvisionnement et de consommation

1865 – Reclus publishes La Sicile et l'éruption de l'Etna

1865 – Travels to Florence where he visits Bakunin and is introduced to the local circle of activists

September 24, 1868 – Reclus gives an address, while participating in the Berne Congress, that promoted wide-ranging decentralization

1869 – Reclus publishes La Terre et Histoire d'un ruisseau

1869 – Reclus' wife Clarisse dies

1870 – Reclus informally marries Fanny Lherminez

1870 – During the siege of Paris Reclus shared in aerostatic operations conducted by Félix Nadar and served in the National Guard

1871 – As a member of the Association Nationale des Travailleurs, Reclus publishes a hostile manifesto against the government of Versailles in support of the Paris Commune in the Cri du Peuple

March 18-May 28 1871 – Paris Commune

April 5, 1871 – Continuing to serve in the National Guard, now in open revolt, Reclus is taken prisoner

November 1871 – Reclus is tried and sentenced to prison in New Caledonia his sentence is mitigated by an international petition signed by many scientists including Charles Darwin

January 1872 – Reclus is sentenced to perpetual banishment from France

1871 – Moves to Clarens in Switzerland until 1892

1874 – Fanny Lherminez dies

1875 – Reclus moves in with his third spouse Ermance Gonini

1876 – Reclus is the first to adopt the theory of anarcho-communism later propagated by the Italian section of the International, though he advocated for distribution regulated by solidarity rather than the "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs", the slogan stressed by Italian anarcho-communists

1876 – Reclus delivers a eulogy at the funeral of his good friend, the great revolutionary Michael Bakunin in Berne

1880 – Reclus publishes the anarchist pamphlet Evolution et revolution

1882 – Reclus' Father dies

1882 – Reclus is purported to have initiated the "Anti-marriage movement" from his residence in Geneva

1882 – Reclus declares that there were only two principles at work in society: "on the one side, that of government, on the other, that of anarchy, authority and liberty... All revolutionary acts are, by their very nature, essentially anarchical, whatever the power which seeks to profit from them." Reclus believed that every revolt against oppression is therefore good to a degree and was not opposed to the rational use of force when necessary. To make use of force can be an expression of love when it is used to fight oppression and injustice.

1883-1884 – Reclus travels to Asia Minor, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria

1894 – Completes and publishes his geographical volume titled Nouvelle Géographie Universelle. His work is awarded the gold medal of the Paris Geographical Society afterward he moves to Brussels, Belgium where he becomes a professor of comparative geography at the New University of Brussels

1893 – Reclus publishes the anarchist pamphlet A mon frère, le paysan

1893 and 1895 – Reclus attends the Edinburgh Summer Meetings and engaged in lecture tours

1884 – Reclus is appointed chair of comparative geography at the University of Brussels

1895 – Reclus proposes the construction of a huge relief globe on the scale of 1:100,000 but this project did not ever come to fruition.

Early 1900s – After the failure of the anarchist reign of terror in the early 1890s Reclus began to stress the gradual and evolutionary side of social change. He argued that "evolution and revolution are two successive acts of the same phenomenon, evolution preceding revolution, and the latter preceding a new evolution, mother of future revolutions"

July 4, 1905 – Reclus dies from heart disease in Torhout, Belgium at the age of 75


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