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July 26 , 2008



When the Tokugawa shogunate opened the doors of Japan at cannon-point in the mid-1850s, it could hardly have known that one of the first ‘barbarians’ to take advantage of its decision would be none other than Michael Bakunin, the fiery radical and bane of Europe’s princely houses who would in the last years of his life come to be known as the "Father of Anarchism". Nor indeed could the Shogunate’s nemesis, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy have foreseen, when his four heavily-armed ‘black ships’ first heaved to off Uraga Bay near present-day Tokyo in 1853, that a side-effect of his expedition would be to usher in a new phase of European revolution. Bakunin’s sudden arrival, via Yokohama, at the London home-in-exile of the Russian liberal Alexander Herzen in December 1861, when he ought to have been set for safe burial beneath the Siberian permafrost, set governments and financiers throughout Europe shuddering at what they perceived to be the resurrection of the Devil Incarnate. Within a few years their fears were proven to have been only too well founded.

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