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"Let the child make its own discoveries, await their questions, treat & answer seriously, with reserve, so that the child's spirit continues its own efforts, so that you do not impose your own ideas upon them, banally transmitting an unthinking & stupid routine."

Paul Robin, Anarchist Teacher

Paul Robin

Wrongfully forgotten anarchist educator. Born 3 April 1837, Toulon (VAr); died September 1, 1912.

Paul Robin, a college professor, was the most significant figure of the French Neo-Malthusianism movement.

Early in his life Robin was a socialist & supporter of Marx & Engels in the First International before they excluded him, along with Michael Bakunin. Expelled from Belgium in 1869, Robin moved to Switzerland, where he was helped & influenced by Bakunin, then moved to London.

Robin lived in London for 10 years, then went to France in 1880 where he became head of the Prévost Orphanage in Cempuis (Oise). Here he threw in all his energies & put into practice a completely original libertarian pedagogy.

Functioning like a boarding school, more than 600 children were there between 1880 & 1894.

Robin's teaching was based upon observation, development of the artistic direction of the child & taking into account the children's desires. Co-education was the rule, & the children were taken along for two months to the sea each summer, etc. Physical, manual & intellectual education were complemented with 19 different workshops which provided them at least one complete formation of a trade occupation (a bakery, printing works, photography, masonry, etc). These workshops also provided the school a certain financial autonomy.

Unfortunately this libertarian school was subjected to numerous rightwing attacks, & on August 31, 1894, Paul Robin's license was revoked.

Robin then turned his energies to the néo-Malthusian cause, influencing & working for a time with Eugene Humbert, with whom he eventually had a falling out.

Tired & worn down by the struggles, Paul Robin committed suicide on September 1, 1912.

But Robin's legacy at Cempuis was not lost, & he had a tremendous influence on two other great libertarian pedagogues: Francisco Ferrer & Sébastien Faure.

Drawing of Paul Robin

"Laissez l'enfant faire lui-même ses découvertes, attendez ses questions, répondez-y sobrement, avec réserve, pour que son esprit continue ses propres efforts, gardez-vous par-dessus tout de lui imposer des idées toutes faites, banales, transmises par la routine irréfléchie et abrutissante."

    Nelly Roussel
  • Nelly Roussel, a free thinker, anarchist, feminist & partner of the sculptor Henri Godet, worked with Paul Robin, to spread néo-Malthusian ideas, opposing the ideology & laws which sought to repress contraception & related literature. (see Daily Bleed 12/18/1922)

  • Eugene Humbert (1870-1944), French libertarian, militant pacifist & néo-Malthusian (& Jeanne Humbert's companion), became, through Paul Robin, a neo-malthusianist. Humbert is cited in theDaily Bleed 6 March 1870; See also Eugene Humbert Page in this Encyclopedia,

  • Jeanne Humbert is cited in the Daily Bleed calendar 24 January 1890

  • [ROBIN]GIROUD (Gabriel); Paul Robin. Sa vie, ses idées, son action.
    L'Internationale. Cempuis : La coéducation des sexes. La propagande Néo-Malthusienne.
    G. Mignolet & Storz, Paris, 1937. In-12° broché, 317 pp. Illustrations.

  • See also A.S. Neill & Summerhill School in theDaily Bleed 3 December 1921

  • For Robin, Roussel, & others in the neo-Malthusian movement, see Emmanuelle Allegra's La propagande néo-malthusienne à Genève à travers son organe: La Vie Intime (1908-1914).
  • Robin is cited in a long piece by Colin Ward, The Anarchists & the Schools, which Freedom newspaper had online, but now seems long gone (& I failed to make an archive copy in 1999).
  • Robin is cited in Reid Friedson, Radical Educators in New York City, 1909-1915
    Paul Robin photo
  • Paul Robin page entry, in French, at Les femmes et les associations
  • Paul Robin page, in French, at the Institut d'histoire des pedagogies libertaires
  • This French page, is also in Russian, at,
  • Printed, see Christiane Douyère-Demeulenaere, Paul Robin (1837-1912). Un militant de la liberté et du bonheur, (Paris, Publisud, 1994), 478 p.
  • Printed, see B. Lechevalier, “Paul Robin”, in Quinze pedagogues, (Paris, Armand Colin, 1997).
  • Printed, see Une Grande figure: Paul Robin, 1837-1912. (F- Montmorency: La Ruche ouvrière, 1967).

Paul Robin Page created April 1999; updated April 2003

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