A Wealth of Ideas exhibition banner


A Wealth of Ideas: Economics and LSE

2 May to 25 August 2017 in LSE Library Gallery.

A Wealth of Ideas exhibition banner poster

LSE's reputation as a global leader in economics teaching and research has been built upon many decades of work, taking in many differences of approach and opinion. Renowned figures from the School's story such as Lionel Robbins, Friedrich Hayek and Sir Anthony Atkinson have all moulded ideas that have had an impact not only within the realms of academia but also at a wider societal level.   

Now, LSE Library is celebrating some of these stories in a new exhibition opening in May called A Wealth of Ideas.   

The exhibition features some of the Library's rarest books including a first edition of David Ricardo's On the Principle of Political Economy and Taxation first published 200 years ago. A number of other significant texts tracing economic thought in Britain have also been chosen for display including those by Adam Smith and Karl Marx. 

The story of the School's Economics Department - from its earliest days to its most recent Nobel Prize recipients (via an ingenious hydraulic model of the economy) - is also told thanks to papers held in our archives. 

Exhibition curator Inderbir Bhullar said:

This has been a terrific opportunity for us in the Library to bring out some of our rarest and most treasured items. We've a lot of collections which relate to economics so there were many things which could have been chosen. Deciding on what to include was tricky! But I'm really happy with it as it shows some of the different personalities and concepts which have shaped economics historically and at the School. My favourite items probably relate to the story of Bill Phillips' brilliant leftfield idea to mimic the functions of the economy by building a water based computer! Even better it was used to teach students here. 


Listen to Indy Bhullar talk about the exhibition in this short podcast

Hear Professor Mary Morgan talk about The Creation of the Newlyn Phillips Machine in a recent lecture. The machine was an ingenious hydraulic model of the economy devised and built by two LSE students. The story also features in the current LSE Library called A Wealth of Ideas, an exhibition about economic history and economics at the School. The lecture was delivered on 29 June 2017 at LSE, and was chaired by Jim Thomas.

Listen to Jim Thomas speak about the ideological battles between Frierich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes, two of the most influential economists of the twentieth century, and how their ideas developed over the course of their lives. The LSE Library holds the papers of Lionel Robbins as well as various other collections which are on display in the current exhibition A Wealth of Ideas.  The lecture was given on Thursday 3 June 2017 and Professor Mary Morgan was Chair.

Opening times and visiting

From 2 May 2017:

  • Monday to Friday: 9am – 7pm

  • Saturday and Sunday: 11am –  6pm

The Gallery and exhibition are small enough to get around over a lunchtime, so why not make a visit?


Find us

LSE Library, 10 Portugal Street, London WC2A 2HD

View on Google Maps.

For further information, contact the exhibition curator on library.enquiries@lse.ac.uk marking your email for the attention of Indy Bhullar.  


Attend related public events

You can view the LSE Events feed for details of events that we are involved in. Many of these are related to our current exhibition. 

Explore LSE Events feed for Library related event.


Past exhibitions 

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Glad to be Gay: the struggle for legal equalityGlad to be Gay exhibition bannerLSE Library’s spring exhibition Glad to be Gay: the struggle for legal equality draws on the unique Hall-Carpenter Archives and the Women’s Library collection to mark the 50th anniversary of a pivotal piece of legislation: the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.  

Before that, homosexuality was a criminal offence. With the passing of the Sexual Offences Act, homosexuality in private was decriminalised, but genuine parity still was not achieved. The struggle for legal equality continued and has only made progress by the sustained efforts of committed activists.  

This exhibition follows the LGBT story from the ‘hidden’ years when homosexuality was a taboo subject, to the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967 and the emergence of gay liberation in the 1970s when the first Gay Liberation Front meeting was held at LSE in October 1970. 

The exhibition looks at the campaigns to lower the age of consent for gay men to 16 (only achieved in 2001), to repealing section 28 which prevented ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools (only achieved in 2003) and for legal recognition of trans people and civil partnerships in 2004.   

Listen to Gillian Murphy talk about the exhibition in this short podcast.   


Charles Booth’s London: Mapping Lives in Victorian LondonCharles Booth's London exhibition banner17 September – 17 December 2016

Charles Booth’s Inquiry Into the Life and Labour of the People in London was published in 1903 after 16 years of intense research and it remains one of the most ambitious and wide-ranging sociological surveys ever completed.

The poverty maps, which were pioneering in their use colours to detail the street-by-street levels of wealth and poverty of the city, are the most famous outputs from the work. Now, to mark the centenary of Booth’s death, the LSE Library is for the first time displaying a selection from the extensive archive holdings of Booth’s survey, telling the remarkable story of its inception, delivery and influence.

Although the idea, principle guidance and funding were provided by Charles Booth, the inquiry work itself was carried out with the help of numerous individuals. Among these, Beatrice Webb, co-founder of LSE and the Fabian Society, was involved at the early stages. Her original manuscript diary from April 1886 features in the exhibition and mentions "Charles Booth’s first meeting of the Board of Statistical Research … Object of the Committee to get a fair picture of the whole of London society – the 4,000,000!"

The exhibition focuses on the local area and on display is one of the original, hand-coloured ‘poverty maps’ of Holborn. There are also several of the original, hand-written notebooks which exemplify the work carried out to detail the poverty and industries from the time.

Today Clare Market is situated at the heart of the London School of Economics and Political Science’s campus which will soon be home to the new International Inequalities Institute. At the time of Booth’s research, however, the area was a slum: "The chief poverty [in the area] lies about Clare Market and Drury Lane which is said to be largely due to drink" wrote one of Booth’s assured assistants.

One of the most important outcomes from the work was the pressure it brought to bear on issues of poverty and economic inequality. This included the analysis of East End workhouses where the largest single cause of pauperism (approximately 30% of cases) was due to old age. One of the original Stepney Union Workhouse casebooks is on display and provides a poignant reminder of a time before government administered social security. The 1908 passing of the Old Age Pensions Act has been attributed in part to Booth’s campaigning on the issue. In July 2016 the Booth archive was inscribed on UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World Register, which recognises culturally significant heritage material from across the UK, joining other material such as the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta.

Exhibition curator Inderbir Bhullar said:

It has been wonderful exploring the Booth archive and we are so excited to be sharing it with our visitors. A visit to this exhibition will show how shocking the results of the survey really were, first-hand, and the ways in which it changed perceptions of poverty and social security. Discovering the hidden stories of real people in London in the later Victorian era has also been fascinating. Peeking out from notebooks are stories from chorus girls on Drury Lane to the pub landlords’ tricks of the trade; there’s a vibrancy and colour here which extends beyond the maps.


Endless Endeavours: from the 1866 Women’s Suffrage Petition to the Fawcett SocietyEndless Endeavours exhibition banner23 April – 27 August 2016

The Library’s summer exhibition Endless Endeavours: from the 1866 Women’s Suffrage Petition to the Fawcett Society draws on its unique collections to mark the 150th anniversary of a petition to Parliament which was signed by 1,499 women calling for women’s suffrage. The exhibition celebrates the achievements of those early suffragists and the organisation which became the Fawcett Society. Although this petition was unsuccessful, the Fawcett Society regards this moment as its foundation and the start of an organised campaign for the vote.

"I think the most important thing is to make a demand and commence the first humble beginnings of an agitation…." wrote Helen Taylor to Barbara Bodichon in May 1866. Less than a month later, John Stuart Mill MP presented the women’s suffrage petition to Parliament.

For many people the right of women to vote is taken for granted, but it was actively campaigned for 62 years before it was won. It was not until the 1928 Equal Franchise Act that women over 21 could vote on the same terms as men.

On display is an original pamphlet of the 1866 petition which was sent to weekly newspapers in July of that year. It is one of two known copies in the country. A beautiful suffrage banner and hanging inspired by the petition are also on show.

We are also displaying for the first time a newly-discovered brooch, encrusted in green, red and white jewels – colours of the suffragists. It was presented to Millicent Garrett Fawcett by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1913.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said:

The Fawcett Society is delighted to support this important exhibition marking our 150th anniversary year. We have had a long association with the Women’s Library and are delighted to be able to make available to them an item for the exhibition. 


Women, Peace and EqualityWomen, Peace and Equality banner image9 January - 9 April 2016

The Library’s spring exhibition draws on its iconic collections to explore the theme of war, women and peace. It coincides with the launch of the new teaching programme at the Centre for Women, Peace and Security at LSE.

War has devastating consequences for both men and for women. Historically, armed conflict highlights underlying inequalities between men and women that are less obvious in peacetime. Sustainable peace is dependent upon equality and understanding between people which will only be realised with greater participation of women in international roles at all levels.

The exhibition considers how women have tried to prevent war and promote peace. It also shows how women have raised awareness about those who have suffered in war and how they have alleviated the distress of war through humanitarian relief work. The exhibition also looks at key international events from 1975 which have led to the subject of women, peace and security entering the international agenda.

On display are original photographs and documents from the Boer War in 1901, Eglantyne Jebb and Save the Children, Edith Summerskill’s visit to Spanish Civil War refugees, photographs from the first women’s international peace congress in 1915 which led to the formation of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and UN posters and letters.

Professor Christine Chinkin, director of the Centre for Women, Peace and Security said:

I am delighted that the LSE Library is making accessible this important visual history of women’s agency in war, and the significant steps that women have taken at the international level in pursuit of gender equality.


Foundations: LSE and the Science of SocietyFoundations exhibition banner LSE Library has opened Foundations: LSE and the Science of Society, the latest exhibition to be featured in its Exhibition Space.

In October 1895, LSE was founded on little more than an idea. The founders believed that an understanding of human social relations would make it possible to manage those relations better. They believed in applying science to society which was an entirely novel field of study.

This exhibition draws on iconic material from across the Library’s collections to illustrate how its founding vision was realised, developed and implemented by some key inspirational personalities from the early years of LSE.

The exhibition aims to inspire students by showing how LSE academics have taken that founding vision ‘to make a difference’ and put it into practice. On display are original archive items: field photographs of Bronislaw Malinowski, the founder of social anthropology; a notebook of Michael Oakeshott, a charismatic teacher, and Karl Popper’s letter about his student, Imre Lakatos, who revolutionised the philosophy of mathematics. All were influential thinkers who simultaneously inspired new generations of researchers and were inspired by them.

The exhibition also shows examples of LSE academics who achieved success as reformers and public servants, informing public policy and events in the twentieth century. On display is the first draft of William Beveridge’s report for social insurance which led directly to the creation of the welfare state. Other items illustrate how the professional lives of LSE academics made a difference in society. For example the diary of Hugh Dalton describes his work as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1945 and the radical reforms that he was bringing in, and the diary of Lionel Robbins considers his involvement in negotiating US financial support to ensure that UK peace-time reconstruction was possible following the Second World War. Their activities reflect the founders’ intentions: to make society work better in the future.

A new Exhibition Space for LSE LibraryCampaigning: Causes and Connections exhibition poster

LSE Library, the largest social science library in Europe, has opened a new Exhibition Space, a state of the art facility to showcase the best and most interesting items from the Library’s collections.

The Exhibition Space includes a video wall alongside two display cases for collection items, enabling the Library to host a series of changing exhibitions. The inaugural exhibition, Campaigning; Causes and Connections, focusses on the subject of protest, exploring the connections between the Library’s collections, including campaigns for the vote, peace and gay and women’s equality.

An array of unique items are on display, from posters created at the Greenham Common occupation camp to badges supporting the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, as well as a rare ‘Votes for Women’ silk scarf and handwritten correspondences between Emmeline Pankhurst and Keir Hardie.

Anna Towlson, Archives and Special Collections Manager at LSE Library, said:

Public engagement is a key part of the School’s mission and the Library supports this by widening access to our collections, both physically and digitally. The Exhibition Space is just one of many emerging exciting prospects for us.