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Utopia and Dystopia

though no man has anything, yet they are all rich

Running from Monday, October 03, 2016 until Saturday, December 17, 2016

Introduction

though no man has anything, yet they are all rich; for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and cheerful life, free from anxieties; neither apprehending want himself  

Thomas More, Utopia

 

To mark the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia in Leuven in 1516, Senate House Library has mounted a thought-provoking exhibition and programme of public engagement events including lectures, film screenings, an arts workshop and an academic symposium. The season is a celebration of More’s influential book and its enduring influence in politics, economic and social reform, literature and popular culture. It revolves around the idea of how the concept of the ideal society has travelled and evolved across time and place: from Renaissance England to the liberation movements of Africa and Latin America in the second half of the 20th century, from the egalitarian communities and garden cities imagined by British, French and American philanthropists in the 18th and 19th centuries, to the depiction of futuristic visions of the world that led to the emergence of science fiction as a literary genre. Finally, it will also address how utopian and dystopian visions have influenced popular culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. The exhibition draws primarily from Senate House Library’s extensive collection and also includes items from the deposited archives and special collections of the Institutes of Commonwealth and Latin American Studies.

 


Themes

  • Writing Utopia

    In this gallery visitors can see additional images relating to other editions of Thomas More's Utopia held by Senate House Library.

  • Political Utopias and Dystopias

    In this gallery visitors can explore additional images relating to political utopias and dystopias. The vast majority of this material comes from the archives and special collections of the Institutes of Commonwealth and Latin American Studies, which are deposited at Senate House Library. The gallery focuses on the liberation and independence movements that dominated politics in Africa and Latin America during the second half of the 20th century. It also addresses issues relating to the fight against repressive regimes and the struggle for civil rights and liberties.

  • Economic and Social Utopias and Dystopias

    In this gallery we present some images relating to utopian experiments in social, economic and urban reform from the 18th to the 20th centuries in several parts of the world. These visions were often formulated by individuals with a philanthropic spirit. Their main aim was to improve the living, working and moral conditions of the many rather than the few. Religious motivations were often at the heart of some of these visions, which sought to distance themselves from mainstream society and create a new model of social organisation.

  • Literary Utopias and Dystopias

    In this gallery we show some digital images of illustrations in several utopian literary works.