First the Press, Then the Streets

In the early 1900s, Spain was at the forefront of the largest anarchist movement in history. According to James Yeoman, author of recently released Print Culture and the Formation of the Anarchist Movement in Spain, 1890-1915, it would not have been possible without the underground press.

His book discusses this pivotal moment in anarchism and its long-lasting effect on independent print. Yeoman, who researched the book while completing his PhD at the University of Sheffield in the UK, situates the tactics of the Spanish anarchist movement as part of ongoing experiments in underground media as early as the 17th century. “This desire to create a movement through engaging with print publication runs from at least the English Civil War and on into the 1960s.”

Yeoman found his interest in the history of the print movement by accident, after a failed first attempt at his research thesis. “Originally, I was meant to research educational missions in the Spanish countryside. However, after six months of researching, I learned there were no records of this ever occurring, so while I knew it had happened, I had no evidence to base my thesis around. But what I did find was loads and loads of newspapers detailing the Spanish anarchist movement.”

Yeoman went to Jerez, a city in southern Spain that became an epicentre of the uprising, and dug through their archives. He spent an hour chatting with the archive’s owner, hoping to make a case for his research. “Originally I worried he wouldn’t help me at all,” says Yeoman, “He actually turned out to be way too helpful and kept giving me different things that weren’t relevant.”

It was also during this time that he noticed how the high rate of illiteracy in Spain at the time caused printmakers to use creative methods to spread their message. Anarchist literature would be mass-read in the city squares, from Seville to Barcelona.

Reading these print archives nearly 100 years after the fact showed a fascinating style of newspaper. Yeoman assumed the works were made for aloud reading by the repetition, and enlarging font, which he predicts was made to invite a call and response format, necessary for enacting a powerful movement.

Yeoman’s work takes it place among other works of emerging scholarship aimed at understanding how, as he writes in his concluding remarks in the book, “Bottom-up movements operate across boundaries within and between nations… creating and managing networks of exchange, which gave a practical significance to ideas such as solidarity, unity and organization.”

Yeoman’s novel can be found through AK Press:


Thunderous Feminism: The Legacy of the Northern Woman Journal

On printing day of the famed Thunder Bay feminist publication, one woman would type on an electric typewriter while volunteers spread the issue’s pages on the counters and stools of what was formerly a Finnish restaurant — still smelling of the fryer oil.

Trash and Treasure: The Holycrap Family on Zinemaking and Keepsaking

Their award-winning zine may have begun as a lighthearted family activity, but parents Pann and Claire Lim's are attempting to present Rubbish Famzine as something more enduring to their children: an heirloom.

The Tide Turns in Time

How Michael Novick and his street action political zine Turning the Tide evolved to put radical media in the hands of the people.

In the Beginning was the End: 50 Years of Devo

Like the oscillations on an energy dome, the de-evolution doctrine of some geeky Akron, Ohio punkers has echoed for generations, inspiring underground art scenes for most of a century. This is the story of art and Devo.

Hardcore in the Void: The Return of Anti-Matter

"There were definitely times where I thought, ‘I could really use a conversation with someone who’s just seen it all.’” Texas is the Reason's Norman Brannon discusses his reasons for reviving his '90s hardcore zine.