The difficulty of building heaven on Earth: why utopias usually fail

The years after the first world war were a boom time for utopian communities. As the survivors of the conflict began to recover, many were drawn towards experimental ways of living. Anna Neima looks at six of these communities, asking what brought them together, what kept them going and what legacy, if any, they left behind. In doing so, she offers an original perspective on the entire period and a new way of navigating its artistic and ideological upheaval. She begins with Santiniketan Sriniketan, the community founded by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore in West Bengal. Part ashram, part school, part agricultural college, it promoted the twin causes of

Toby Young

The curious parable of Dartington

I spent last weekend in south Devon at Dartington, the former estate of Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, and now a charitable trust. I know the place quite well because my father was more or less adopted by the Elmhirsts when he was 14 and I spent four years there as a teenager while he was writing Dorothy and Leonard’s biography. He described it as his best book and I was pleased to see it on display behind the reception area at Dartington Hall, a Grade I listed building that is now a hotel, among other things. I’ve always thought the story of Dartington would make a good parable about the