Dimitrije Mitrinović (1887-1953) was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina. As a young man he took a leading part in his country’s struggle for independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in the movement to create a united Yugoslavia. Having studied art history in Munich, he came to England in 1914 fleeing the onset of the First World War and took up a position with the Serbian Legation in London. Mitrinović moved in influential cultural circles both on the Continent and in England. Between the wars he was a major contributor to the radical journal The New Age, writing a column on “World Affairs” under the pseudonym M.M. Cosmoi. The column was not universally popular with readers, and editor A.R. Orage received letters complaining about Mitrinović’s difficult style and levelling accusations of anti-Semitism at him. Orage stood by “Cosmoi”, printing a defence of the controversial journalist.
Early on after coming to England, Mitrinović also set himself up as a private philosophy teacher, and came to live and hold teaching sessions in London’s Bloomsbury. He held that there was a need for a new stage in human development. This required the recognition of the essential complementary functions in the world of different ethnic, religious and other groups, the need for guidance through intermediation to solve conflicts in society, and the need for personal change to develop individuals as the mediators of society. Re-evaluation of the wisdom of the past meant the investigation of works from all periods of history on religion, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and the arts. To this end he began to gather a significant library, with thousands of works that he annotated and lent to his students.
In 1927, Mitrinović founded the English Branch of the International Society for Individual Psychology (the Adler Society), lecturing on psychology and related subjects. The desire of the group to derive practical results from their psychological studies, and association with like-minded radical groups, led to the formation firstly of the Chandos Group, and subsequently, the New Europe Group in 1931. This political activity led to a schism firstly with the Group’s Medical Section, and subsequently with the International Society for Individual Psychology. Alfred Adler himself finally felt compelled to expel Mitrinović’s group from the Society.
The New Europe Group continued to flourish. Its members believed in greater devolution of political power within a federal Europe, alongside a re-evaluation of European culture. From this proceeded the New Britain Movement in 1932, with proposals for national changes in society, federation and devolution, reform of the financial system, workers’ control in industry through National Guilds, and a House of Industry and House of Culture to supplement the House of Commons. The movement was supported by the journal New Britain and its successor The Eleventh Hour Bulletin.
Despite great popularity, the New Britain Movement dissolved in 1934 -1935 but the New Europe Group continued to be active into the 1950s. Its cultural programme, the Renaissance Club, held lectures and concerts. Active members of the group included the first President, Sir Patrick Geddes, H.C. Rutherford, Violet MacDermot, Valerie Cooper, Ellen Mayne, Philip Mairet, David Shillan, and the Nobel prize-winning chemist Frederick Soddy.
From the late 1930s Mitrinović established, or encouraged the creation of, various organisations for women including the Boadicea Club, Anthropo-Femina of the New Atlantis and the New Boadicea Club from around 1938 and into the war years. Members seem to have organised lectures and studied what they termed “feminology”, the study of women. There was at least one counterpart male group, the Caractacus Club, created as a mirror of Boadicea, but unfortunately far fewer records of any male group survive. Until the post-war years at least, it seems that women were the main record-keepers in Mitrinović’s circle, and may have acted early on to retain and organise Mitrinović’s personal and working papers too.
With the exception of some of the New Europe Group’s work, Mitrinović’s activities became more inward-focussed. The groups for men and women were largely made up of the same inner group of people who had come to study with Mitrinović previously or had joined another one of his organisations but become further involved. This core circle entered into what might be termed an intentional community, bound to each by a “Personal Alliance” and engaging in the spiritual and personal development of each member and the group as a whole. Mitrinović used various terms and symbols in this aspect of his work, including “Canoe”, “Human House”, “Cactus”, and “Personal Alliance.”
The New Atlantis Foundation was started as a charitable trust in 1954 after the death of Mitrinović to “promote the cultural, educational and social thinking of the late Dimitrije Mitrinović” in accordance with his wishes. One of the Foundation’s first acts was to facilitate the donation of many of Mitrinović’s books to the library at the University of Belgrade. This collection remains at the Svetozar Marković University Library. The Foundation for many years held a series of annual lectures covering various aspects of religion and philosophy, giving particular attention to thinkers whose work may have been neglected or misinterpreted. The N.A.F., since re-named The Mitrinović Foundation, remains active in keeping alive the work of Mitrinović and other members of the Group. In the 1990s the Foundation donated the Mitrinović Library to Special Collections at the University of Bradford. This collection is kept together in the Mitrinović Library and is catalogued on the main university catalogue.
The papers of Mitrinović and the groups he was involved with were retained by the New Atlantis Foundation. The members’ own records were also added to this archive. The records were divided between several different houses, and some were listed by members of the Foundation (particularly Martin Ryle and Violet MacDermot). Parts of the archive were organised and re-arranged, in one case at least twice in different orders. The Archive was donated by the Foundation to Special Collections at the University of Bradford in 2003, where it was partially re-arranged to reflect the people and organisations involved. The Foundation supported conservation work on the Library books and re-packaging of the Archive for preservation, before funding the creation of a detailed catalogue in 2014-2015.