Why did WW1 inspire so many utopian experiments?

Dr. Anna Neima

A century ago, the world was reeling in the wake of the First World War and the Spanish Flu pandemic. How did these catastrophic global events motivate people to live in new ways?

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The Covid-19 pandemic has provided the impetus to "build back better". But it's not the first world-changing incident to inspire radical ideas about what a better world could look like.

The Spanish Flu pandemic and two World Wars similarly caused a radical shift in how humans understood safety and security. In the aftermath of WW1, a whole spate of communities sprang up all over the globe, formed with the intention of finding a better way to live. These groups set out with the best intentions, yet hardly any of their communities have survived. Why not? And what can we learn from these idealists and the rise and fall of their utopian experiments?

Dr. Anna Neima has spent years studying the fascinating and sometimes bizarre histories of communities like these all over the world, from England to India to the USA. She joins us in The Garden to explore why times of upheaval are the catalyst for utopian thinking, and what lessons we can learn from these 20th Century experiments to help us build a better world today.

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50 minutes



About the Fellow

Dr. Anna Neima

Anna Neima is a writer and historian, who specialises in the experimental communities that sprang up around the globe in the aftermath of the First World War.

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Utopia Collection

In difficult times, humans start thinking about what a perfect world - a utopia - might look like. Many have explored the concept, some have even tried to build it. We’re exploring how different thinkers have approached the idea of utopia.