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Peter Marshall is a philosopher, historian, biographer, travel writer and poet. He has written sixteen highly acclaimed books which are being translated into fifteen different languages. His most recent book is 'Poseidon' Realm: A Voyage around the Aegean (London: Zena, 2016).

His circumnavigation of Africa was made into a 6-part TV series and his voyage around Ireland into a BBC Radio series. He has written articles and reviews for many national newspapers and journals.Widely recognized as a bold and original thinker, Marshall has made a major contribution to fields as diverse as anarchism, ecology, alchemy and archaeology. He has been hailed by Resurgence magazine as one of the twenty five 'visionary voices' who have helped shape the new world view in the last quarter of a century. In his life and writings, he has tried to expand freedom and to help all beings realize their full potential.

Born on 23 August 1946 in Bognor Regis, England, a stone's throw from the sea, Peter Hugh Marshall became a boarder at Steyning Grammar School in the Sussex Downs. He then sailed around the world as a purser cadet in the P & O-Orient Shipping Company before teaching English in Senegal, West Africa.

He returned to England to take a in English, French and Spanish from London University and an M.A. and a D.Phil. in the History of Ideas from Sussex University. He has taught philosophy and literature at several British universities and art schools.

In the 1970s Marshall was a founding member of a libertarian community in Buckinghamshire called Redfield. He went in 1980 with Jenny Zobel to Snowdonia in North Wales for a winter to finish his first book and stayed on for 21 years, first living in a remote cottage in the mountains and then down by the sea. He now lives on an organic smallholding in Devon with Elizabeth Ashton Hill. Apart from writing and growing fruit and vegetables, his great passion is sailing. He has two children, Emily and Dylan.

Marshall has been chairman of the Toussaint L'Ouverture Theatre Company and a trustee of the Tree Shepherds. He is now a member of the Society of Authors and an elected fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Purchasing Links

William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary
Author: Peter Marshall • Foreword: John P.Clark
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-386-2
Published: 06/2017
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 544 pages
Subjects: Biography/Philosophy-Anarchism

William Godwin has long been known for his literary connections as the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, the father of Mary Shelley, the friend of Coleridge, Lamb, and Hazlitt, the mentor of the young Wordsworth, Southey, and Shelley, and the opponent of Malthus. Godwin has been recently recognized, however, as the most capable exponent of philosophical anarchism, an original moral thinker, a pioneer in socialist economics and progressive education, and a novelist of great skill.

His long life straddled two centuries. Not only did he live at the center of radical and intellectual London during the French Revolution, he also commented on some of the most significant changes in British history. Shaped by the Enlightenment, he became a key figure in English Romanticism.

Basing his work on extensive published and unpublished materials, Peter Marshall has written a comprehensive study of this flamboyant and fascinating figure. Marshall places Godwin firmly in his social, political, and historical context; he traces chronologically the origin and development of Godwin’s ideas and themes; and he offers a critical estimate of his works, recognizing the equal value of his philosophy and literature and their mutual illumination.

The picture of Godwin that emerges is one of a complex man and a subtle and revolutionary thinker, one whose influence was far greater than is usually assumed. In the final analysis, Godwin stands forth not only as a rare example of a man who excelled in both philosophy and literature but as one of the great humanists in the Western tradition.


“The most comprehensive and richly detailed work yet to appear on Godwin as thinker, writer, and person.”
—John P. Clark, The Tragedy of Common Sense

“An ambitious study that offers a thorough exploration of Godwin’s life and complex times.”
Library Journal

“Marshall steers his course . . . with unfailing sensitivity and skill. It is hard to see how the task could have been better done.”
—Michael Foot, The Observer

“It brings back a thinker who was at once visionary and confident, and who had the good fortune to write when utopian ideas did not seem utopian.”
—David Bromwich, New York Times

“An absorbing biography . . . presenting a sympathetic portrait of a principled, embattled humanist. Peter Marshall describes these voluminous and multifaceted writings discerningly.”
—M.B. Freidman, Choice

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Romantic Rationalist: A William Godwin Reader
Author: William Godwin • Editor: Peter Marshall • Foreword: John P. Clark
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-228-5
Published: 02/2017
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 192
Subjects: Political Theory/Anarchism

William Godwin (1756–1836) was one of the first exponents of utilitarianism and the first modern proponent of anarchism. He was not only a radical philosopher but a pioneer in libertarian education, a founder of communist economics, and an acute and powerful novelist whose literary family included his partner, pioneering feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and his daughter Mary Godwin (later Mary Shelley), who would go on to write Frankenstein and marry the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

His long life straddled two centuries. Not only did he live at the center of radical and intellectual London during the French Revolution, he also commented on some of the most significant changes in modern history. Shaped by the Enlightenment, he became a key figure in English Romanticism.

This work offers for the first time a handy collection of Godwin’s key writings in a clear and concise form, together with an assessment of his influence, a biographical sketch, and an analysis of his contribution to anarchist theory and practice. The selections are taken from all of Godwin’s writings including his groundbreaking work during the French Revolution, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and arranged by editor Peter Marshall to give a coherent account of his thought for the general reader.

Godwin’s work will be of interest to all those who believe that rationality, truth, happiness, individuality, equality, and freedom are central concerns of human enquiry and endeavor.



“Peter Marshall has produced the most useful modern account of Godwin’s life and now the most useful modern anthology of his writings. Marshall’s selection is sensible and valuable, bringing out the important points. . . . His introduction is a good summary of Godwin’s life and work. . . . Marshall is right to see him as ‘the most profound exponent of philosophical anarchism.’”
—Nicolas Walter, New Statesman

“A handsome and handy little book, excavating nuggets of Godwinian wisdom from the whole range of his writings.”
—Colin Ward, Times Educational Supplement

“An anarchist classic . . . with a valuable sketch of Godwin’s life and an interpretation of his work. Much of what Godwin says is obvious common sense.”
—Henry Geiger, Manas Journal

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Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism
By Peter Marshall
Published: Dec. 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60486-064-1
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 800
Dimensions: 8.5 by 5.5
Subjects: History, Political Science


Navigating the broad "river of anarchy," from Taoism to Situationism, from Ranters to Punk rockers, from individualists to communists, from anarcho-syndicalists to anarcha-feminists, Demanding the Impossible is an authoritative and lively study of a widely misunderstood subject. It explores the key anarchist concepts of society and the state, freedom and equality, authority and power, and investigates the successes and failure of the anarchist movements throughout the world. While remaining sympathetic to anarchism, it presents a balanced and critical account. It covers not only the classic anarchist thinkers, such as Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Reclus and Emma Goldman, but also other libertarian figures, such as Nietzsche, Camus, Gandhi, Foucault and Chomsky. No other book on anarchism covers so much so incisively.

In this updated edition, a new epilogue examines the most recent developments, including "post-anarchism" and "anarcho-primitivism" as well as the anarchist contribution to the peace, green and Global Justice movements.

Demanding the Impossible is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand what anarchists stand for and what they have achieved. It will also appeal to those who want to discover how anarchism offers an inspiring and original body of ideas and practices which is more relevant than ever in the twenty-first century.


Demanding the Impossible is the book I always recommend when asked--as I often am--for something on the history and ideas of anarchism.” --Noam Chomsky

“Attractively written and fully referenced…bound to be the standard history.” --Colin Ward, Times Educational Supplement

“Large, labyrinthine, tentative: for me these are all adjectives of praise when applied to works of history, and Demanding the Impossible meets all of them.” --George Woodcock, Independent

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Latest blog entries

  • Rumi and Love and Tolerance
    I said after breakfast in the ‘Rumi Hotel’ in Konya to a Sufi from Birmingham in England: ‘The reason why Rumi is so important today is because he taught tolerance and love.’
    Neo-Hippies’ are back, it seems, in fashion. But I suspect many are like ‘neo-capitalists’ with little conscience.
  • Trump and May
    Donald Trump is truly absurd. He is not only a racist and misogynist and believes in torture but an extreme right -winger who denies the existence of climate change.
  • Castro and Cuba
    The ‘Jefe Maximo’ (Supreme Leader) Fidel Castro is dead. He may have become been a towering figure in the 20th century but for many he was a highly controversial and divisive one. His brother Raúl, head of the military forces, continues as president of Cuba. The ‘Communist’ regime totters but for the moment lives on.
  • The UK referendum on membership of the European Union and the Freedom of Speech
    I don't usually vote at the national level because there is no real choice between the existing parties. They are all committed to a national parliament and have top-down solutions. Voting only encourages career politicians; if it genuinely changed things, they would abolish it. However,  I have recently voted in the referendum to leave the European Union mainly for the following reasons: I would rather be a citizen of the world than a member of a narrow,largely white,undemocratic, centralized, capitalist superstate of Europe. I don't see why 70 per cent of UK law should be made by unelected commissionaires in Brussels and UK judges should be overriden. I don't see why rich European states in the north should dictate terms to poorer countries in the south of Europe, such as Germany with Greece. Greece will never be able to repay its debts.It comes as no surprise that the head of the IMF, the President of the US and the main transnational corporations would like Britain to remain part of the EU. It would mean business as usual.  I think there is more chance of Britain forming a loose alliance of countries of the world and to create a democratic, participatory, ecological, equal and free society in the future outside the iron fetters of the EU than within it. I am in reasonably good company on the left as well as the bad company of the 'little Englanders' on the right. What unites them is a belief in greater democratic control over Britain's future although we differ widely over our beliefs, visions and goals. Obviously, as my books and actions vividly illustrate, I am no racist. I also think we should help and receive political refugees from war-torn countries. You may disagree with me but I believe in the freedom of thought, expression and action. It is only through adopting these principles that any moral or social improvement can be made. I may disagree with you but I accept wholeheartedly your claim to express an opinion, whatever it might be. Peter Marshall is the author of over 15 books including Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism.  

What others are saying...

Romantic Rationalist: A Review
By Christopher Scott Thompson
Gods & Radicals: A Site of Beautiful Resistance
February 23rd, 2017

Romantic Rationalist includes passages from Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice as well as his novels and other writings. The passages are organized into chapters (such as “Ethics,” and “Politics”) and themes (such as “Duty” and “Rights”) to make it easier to find Godwin’s thoughts on any particular topic. Editor Peter Marshall is the author of Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, which is a comprehensive if not massive work. At under 200 pages, Romantic Rationalist is a less intimidating way to dip your toes in the deep waters of anarchist thought...

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Demanding the Impossible
Ground Control  Magazine
I Wanna Be Literated #144
February 22nd, 2017

"Having read most of these authors before, I can tell Marshall is doing a lot of the heavy work for us in trying to understand what some of them were trying to get at. A lot this source material is dry, convoluted, and very difficult to read and having someone like Marshall extract its meaning for a general audience is vital. What’s also important is how Marshall shows us the complete picture of the philosophers, warts and all. So for example, he makes it a point to talk about Proudhon’s patriarchy and anti-Semitism, Bakunin’s contradictions in stressing the importance of a secret police, Kropotkin’s support of the war and imperialist powers, Goldman’s jealousy in open relationships, and Bookchin’s reversion to Marxism towards the end of his life.

This may sound like nitpicking, but it’s important to remember that these representatives of freedom had flaws themselves. I cannot stress it enough: this book is thorough and well put together..."

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Demanding the Impossible
By Travis Tomchuk 

Left History Journal 15.1 p.218
Queen’s University

Peter Marshall’s Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism is a well-researched and in-depth study of the history of anarchist thought and practice, written not only to demonstrate the existence of a “profound anarchist tradition” but also to show that this political philosophy “offers many ideas and values that are relevant to contemporary problems and issues.”  The breadth of the book is impressive.

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Demanding the Impossible
by Chris Faatz
March 12, 2011

Anarchism is usually belittled as hopelessly utopian or mindlessly violent, but, in reality, it's neither. Rather, it's a rich cauldron of social thought from which we've gleaned a lot historically and will likely continue to do so in the decades to come. Peter Marshall has written a tome worthy of this varied history. Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism gives activists and scholars (as well as the merely curious) plenty to chew on.
Demanding the Impossible
Publishers Weekly
April 2010

The goal of an egalitarian, communal society has always united Marxists and leftist socialists, some of the latter (often if not always described as anarchists) refusing any truck with centralized power. At various times, such ideas have found relatively wide appeal, and this era is one--expressed for instance in the anti-globalization movement's emphases on local control and direct democracy--making Marshall's comprehensive treatment a timely read. Newly revised and updated, this indispensable history of social libertarian thought now reaches into the 21st century--touching upon themes echoed in other recent titles, including Raj Patel's The Value of Nothing. Marshall casts a wide net, gathering all traces of anti-authoritarian socialist thought in works from Lao Tzu through Noam Chomsky, social ecology, and the Zapatistas. Readers will be repeatedly rewarded by Marshall's judiciousness and close readings of both the great names in anarchist history--Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Tolstoy--and less expected contributors--Rousseau, Swift, and Burke. Blowing away cobwebs of misunderstanding and misrepresentation, this is a stimulating portrait of a highly varied but distinctive political ideal, tradition, and practice arising from the enduring human impulse to be free. (June)

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Demanding the Impossible
Book Legion
April 2010

Any book with a chapter on Emma Goldman is okay in my mind.  This History of Anarchism is 818 pages (including indexes) FULL of detailed information.  This is no dummies guide to Anarchy, this is a thorough and complete text that will keep you intrigued.  The author couldn't have squeezed more information into this book.

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Demanding the Impossible
June 2010

Peter Marshall’s Demanding the Impossible has been hailed as the authoritative text on the rich and various history of anti-authoritarianism ever since it was first published by HarperCollins in 1992. This handsome new paperback edition from the independent PM Press features a new epilogue by the author, as well as updates and corrections throughout. Anarchism is a subject whose scope, reputation, and penchant for self-contradiction could—and by a certain logic, perhaps should—impede any effort to fully comprehend it. Not so with Marshall’s admirable doorstop; his prose is as clear and flowing as “the river of anarchy” that he chooses for his project’s guiding metaphor—a much more useful (and optimistic) choice than, say, “the labyrinth.”

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Author Portfolio

The Anarchist Writings of William Godwin. London: Freedom Press, 1986; new edition 1996.
Around Africa: From the Pillars of Hercules to the Strait of Gibraltar. London: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
Celtic Gold: A Voyage Around Ireland. London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1997. 
Cuba Libre: Breaking the Chains? London: Victor Gollancz, 1987.
Damon and Delia. Croesor: Zena, 1988; distributed by University of Wales Press.
Into Cuba. London: Zena Publications, 1985.

Journey Through Maldives. Nairobi: Camerapix Publishers International, 1992.

Journey Through Tanzania. London: Bodley Head, 1984.

Nature's Web: Rethinking our Place on Earth. New York: Paragon Press, 1994.

The Philosopher's Stone: A Quest for the Secrets of Alchemy. London: Macmillan, 2001.
Riding the Wind: A Liberation Ecology for the New Era. London and New York: Cassell, 1998.

The Mercurial Emperor: The Magic Circle of Rudolf II in Renaissance Prague. London: Pimlico, 2007.

The Theatre of the World: Alchemy, Astrology and Magic in Renaissance Prague. London: Harvill Secker, 2006.
William Blake: Visionary Anarchist. London: Freedom Press, 1988.
William Godwin. London and New York: Yale University Press, 1984.
World Astrology: The Astrologer's Quest to Understand the Human Character. London: Macmillan, 2004.

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