Henry, Emile, 1872-1894

Emile Henry
Emile Henry

A short biography of French anarchist and protagonist of 'propaganda by deed', Emile Henry.

Submitted by Steven. on September 25, 2003

Not many people have heard of Emile Henry, which is surprising really.

He was born in 1872 in Spain, the son of an exiled Paris Communard. He returned to Paris with his family, and became a student at the Prestigious Ecole Polytechnique. However, he chose to abandon his studies in favour of "propaganda by deed".

He placed a bomb in the offices of a mining company notorious for its strike-breaking activities. The bomb was discovered, and taken by the police to a local police station, where it exploded, killing several policemen.

In February of 1894, he placed a bomb in a prestigious café frequented by the rich, which detonated killing one person, and injuring several others. This attack shocked many anarchists of the time, as it targeted 'innocent' civilians. However Henry's justification of his acts can be read in his defence. Emile Henry marched to the guillotine on the 21st May, 1894, unrepentent. In his defence, he proclaimed:

"In that pitiless war which we have declared on the bourgeoisie, we ask for no pity. We give death, and we know how to endure it. So it is with indifference that I await your verdict. I know that my head is not the last you will cut off; yet others will fall, for the starving are beginning to know the way to your great cafes and restaurants, to the Terminus and Foyot. You will add other names to the bloody list of our dead.
You have hanged in Chicago, decapitated in Germany, garotted in Jerez, shot in Barcelona, guillotined in Montbrison and Paris, but what you will never destroy is anarchy. Its roots are too deep. It is born in the heart of a society that is rotting and falling apart. It is a violent reaction against the established order. It represents all the egalitarian and libertarian aspirations that strike out against authority. It is everywhere, which makes it impossible to contain. It will end by killing you."