The common perception of William Morris is as a stuffy Victorian, a man who designed wallpaper, a utopian who sought refuge from the industrial world in medieval fantasy. It is true that he designed wallpaper; along with furniture, ceramics, stained-glass windows, tapestries, carpets and buildings. He wrote novels, poetry and translated Icelandic sagas, he wrote on politics, architecture, and the state of art under a growing industrial capitalism and what possibilities existed for life in the future. The ravages of industrial capitalism, its imperialism and war, its destruction of the environment, and above all the enslavement of human labour to the machine all appalled him. For William Morris medieval architecture, art, crafts, and how objects were made inspired him and allowed him to become a great designer. As the nineteenth century progressed he become more political, and realised that a return to the arts and craft of the Middle Ages could not end the exploitation and oppression of the mass of people, so he took the giant step across the ‘river of fire’ and became a socialist. Hassan Mahamdallie argues here that the socialism of Morris grew out of his view of the past and his hatred for a system of ‘shoddy’ production. The author also argues that William Morris was a revolutionary Marxist during the last decades of his life, throwing all his energy into the struggle to change the world. With an updated introduction.
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