One hundred years after the Russian Revolution, this pertinent exhibition takes a look back at a political uprising which shook the world and shaped a century.
If the times we live in feel uncertain, just cast your mind back 100 years and you’ll discover a world already, ‘in flames’. Such was the state of things in 1917. Europe was at war and to the East they were forging the revolution that was to shape the century.
As this show makes clear, the workers’ uprising was something of a war of words, and in a land of religious icons, it was also a war of images. It was certainly a conflict of ideas, and the British Library has pulled together a wealth of artefacts which express the ideological cut and thrust of the time.
So visitors can expect to see a first edition of the Communist Manifesto, which ironically must be worth a healthy five-figure sum by now. The display also includes propaganda from the wrong side of history: anti-Bolshevik sentiments were as keenly expressed as revolutionary fervour. The exhibition promises to look at the revolution through the eyes of so-called ordinary people.
Given the studious, calm and quiet of the venue, some will conclude that London is now safe from the spectre of Communism. Others will reflect that libraries are in fact dangerous places. Marx wrote Das Kapital in the reading room of the British Museum; while Lenin applied for a reader pass there – and the current show the handwritten note to prove it.