Jonathan Lambe, Head of History, St Edward’s School on the significance of bringing Lenin to north Oxford exactly 100 years after the revolutionary leader's proudest moment

Brilliantly recounted in John Reed's Ten Days that Shook the World, the Bolsheviks were successful, on November 7-8, 1917, in toppling the Provisional Government headed by Alexander Kerensky.

In Petrograd it was an almost bloodless coup against a government the Bolsheviks saw as bourgeois and irredeemably committed to the imperialist First World War.

Lenin and his associates suddenly found themselves with an opportunity most of them had never dared to believe was possible: the chance to shape and fashion a society and economy around communist principles. As Lenin noted in his proclamation, "To the Citizens of Russia", sent by telegram throughout Russia at 10am on November 8th 1917, "Long live the revolution of workers, soldiers and peasants!"

Building upon London based exhibitions at the British Library, Royal Academy and the Design Museum, Lenin: Leader of the Russian Revolution runs until Saturday at Oxford’s North Wall Arts Centre and admission is free.

Taking place exactly 100 years after the Bolshevik Revolution, the exhibition focuses on an investigation into the family background and role of one of the principal agitators of events in November 1917.

The exhibition has brought together more than 70 rare photographs and other material relating to the leader of the revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin. Drawn from the extensive and largely unseen archive of the British SCRSS (Society for Cooperation in Russian and Soviet Studies), most of the photographs are on public display for the first time.

Tracing the years from Lenin's childhood, through to his early political commitment as a theorist and activist during his years in exile, the show goes on to explore the social deprivations and conditions which led to the rising up of the proletariat. It examines the role of the people in the struggle against Tsarist rule, the February Revolution that led to the abdication of Nicholas II, and the events leading up to the October Revolution, presenting Lenin as a strategist, a political theorist and as a man close to the people.

The exhibition considers the socio-political changes after the Revolution such as industrialisation and the reorganisation of peasant life. Finally, the show reflects on Lenin’s post-Revolution impact on culture, including his links with great cultural figures of the day, through archive photography, artworks, graphic imagery and film stills.

Lenin was a hugely influential and fascinating figure, though his aspirations for the new Russia involved the use of a secret police, state terror and a concept of democracy which is not compatible with western liberalism. Lenin had a single-minded determination to overturn centuries of tsarist tradition, which involved violently attacking other forces, which he saw as holding Russia back –such as the Orthodox Church, capitalism and the family.

The North Wall exhibition finishes with photographs of Lenin's funeral in Moscow in January 1924. The author, Arthur Ransome, was an eyewitness reporter for The Guardian and he noted the tens of thousands who braved temperatures of minus 35 F to process by the wooden mausoleum to pay their respects to Lenin.

Whatever one's opinion of Lenin, this exhibition is well worth seeing because it is the only one, in this anniversary year, to focus on Lenin's role in the monumental events of Russia in 1917.

  • Lenin: Leader of the Russian Revolution, The North Wall, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford. Until Saturday. Admission is free