Francisco Ferrer Guardia

Francisco Ferrer Guardia
Born (1859-01-10)10 January 1859
Alella, Catalonia, Spain
Died 13 October 1909(1909-10-13) (aged 50)
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Nationality Spanish

Francisco Ferrer Guardia (10 January 1859 – 13 October 1909)[1] was a Spanish anarchist.

Following the declaration of martial law in 1909 during the Tragic Week, having been found guilty under a military tribunal in which no solid evidence was brought against him, on 13 October, Francisco Ferrer Y Guardia was arrested and then executed by firing squad at Montjuich Fortress.

At the age of 50, his last confession was "Aim well, my friends, you are not responsible. I am innocent; long live la Escuela Moderna".

Ferrer was the founder of the Escuela Moderna, a non-compulsory primary and secondary school. Ferrer's pedagogical outlook — in large part — was inspired by the works of William Godwin and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both of whom firmly rejected the idea of education brought about by means of compulsion.[2]

During Ferrer's life, la Escuela Moderna attracted international attention and prompted visits from George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy was so inspired by Ferrer's school that he started his own in Russia, which eventually served as inspiration for A. S. Neill's creation of today's Summerhill School in Suffolk, England.[2][3]


Ferrer was born in Alella (a small town near Barcelona) to Roman Catholic parents. He was sent to work at a Barcelona firm at the age of 15. The owner of the firm was an anti-cleric and is said to have had a great influence on Ferrer. A follower of Spanish republican leader Manuel Ruiz Zorrilla, Ferrer was exiled to Paris with his wife and children in 1885. Divorcing in 1899, he remarried a wealthy Parisian teacher shortly thereafter.

In 1901 he returned to Spain and opened the Escuela Moderna (The Modern School) to teach middle-class children (then) radical social values. In 1906 he was arrested on suspicion of involvement with the anarchist Mateu Morral's attack on King Alfonso XIII and released uncharged over a year later. His school failed and closed while he was incarcerated.

Early in the summer of 1908, after his release from jail, he wrote the story of the Modern School. The work was entitled The Origins and Ideals of the Modern School and was translated into English and published by the Knickerbocker Press in 1913.

After his Death

In Anarchism and Other Essays, Emma Goldman called Francesc Ferrer a "rebel" and said that "his spirit would rise in just indignation against the iron régime of his country...".

Shortly after his execution, numerous supporters of Ferrer's ideas became much more vocal in the United States of America formed what were called Modern Schools, or Ferrer Schools, modeled after la Escuela Moderna. Emma Goldman also played a key role in creation of the Ferrer Association which attracted many prominent American thinkers like Upton Sinclair, Jack London, and Charles Edward Russell.[4]

The first and most notable Modern School was formed in New York City in 1911, and then later a community was founded around a school, known as the Ferrer Colony and Modern School.


  1. "Biografía de Francesc Ferrer i Guardia". Universidad de Huelva. Universidad de Huelva. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  2. 1 2 Avrich, Paul (1980). The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States. Princeton University Press. pp. 3–35.
  3. Avrich, Paul (1980). The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States. Princeton University Press. pp. 172, 311, 322, 323, 341, 344, 362, 401.
  4. Avrich, Paul (1980). The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States. Princeton University Press. pp. 37–74.
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