2016 Exhibitions

Empires of Emptiness and Sahara & The Steppe



Monday, 14 March to Friday, 18 March 2016


9.00 - 18.00


Aston Webb, Rotunda



How do empires expand into deserts? Despite their apparently limited value and significant logistical difficulties, the conquest of desert has often mobilised sizeable resources from some of the world’s most notable empires.

Presenting the results of the Birmingham-led research project Outposts of Conquest, this exhibition displays the history and present-day state of one of the most symbolically charged expressions of imperial control in desert environments: the Russian fortifications in the Central Asian steppe and the vast network of French forts built in an attempt to control the Sahara desert. The comparison shows how these two Christian colonial powers sought to control Muslim and predominantly nomad populations.

The indoor exhibition is complemented by an outdoor gallery, Sahara & the Steppe, which contextualises the geographical and human environment where these fortresses were built. The vanity of these imperial fortresses, guarding these vast spaces of wind, sand and stars, appears even more clearly, and the stories behind these sentinels of the void, even more mysterious.
Presented by Department of Modern Languages in partnership with Research and Cultural Collections.