Thomas and his “Utopia”



Basically, this post is meant to tell you a little bit more about Thomas More and his “Utopia” written in 1516.

Thomas More: was a British politician and writer from the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. He’s the one who came up with the word “utopia”, giving it as a title for his novel in 1516. Unfortunately, he was beheaded…

Utopia (1516): is a – Utopian – novel written just before the English Reformation. Its narrator Hythloday confronts his opinion with others during his travels and denounces – indirectly of course – feudalism and religious intolerance.

Ok…So that’s the very basic information. The teacher gave us a question about the vision of the author so I wrote some kind of mini essay look-alike which will surely enlighten you as to who More is really and what’s his vision like. (I have never been doing a structured essay or anything like that so please, don’t stone me if it’s not quite right!)

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) is often considered as the first British Humanist. Educated in a monastery, he combined classical learning and intellectual curiosity with the religious faith and loyalty of the medieval times. He was a lawyer, a writer, a statesman and at some point was appointed chancellor of England. In 1513, More wrote “History of Richard III”, mostly for political reasons, but his most famous work is without a doubt “Utopia”, published in 1516. The novel was originally written in Latin (it was later published in English) and was a success in Great Britain. In it, More describes a perfect society living according to Humanist’s principles.

How do Thomas More’s vision of social systems and practices compare with those of his own time?

In his first volume, More evokes the drastic economical and moral situation of England. He denounces rack-rents, the extravagance of wealthy classes and an unjust judicial system, too harsh for poor people. The author condemns social gaps and poverty. However, we can notice he is very careful not to criticize Henry VIII by making the story take place twelve years before his reign.

The second part tells about Utopia (which literally means “no place”). More talks about some mythological golden age which also refers to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden before the original fall. Utopia is described as an ideal land giving abundant fruits. There, man creates a society relying on reason and antique values. Aristocracy and social classes don’t exist anymore: everybody is ranked the same and works to make the country prosper. Privileges have also been abolished and everybody has an equal share of property which is switched every ten years. Gold ans such riches despised ans kept to pay foreign mercenaries in case a war breaks out. Marriage is encouraged but unfaithfulness and prostitution are severely condemned. However, divorces and remarriages are allowed, even for women. In such a society, they are valued and have the same access to education as men. They can even become priests.

To conclude, we could see that More brings some answers to his society’s problems through Utopia. Some of the ideas are applicable (concerning education for women for instance) but most of them seem out of reach (suppressing social classes for example). Still, this novel is a proof of the author’s very modern principles and a strong statement against women’s discrimination and poverty.

Do you want to find out more about utopia? Check this video out!

That’s it for now, have a great evening …Or morning, depending on where you are : )

(picture credit: Zippo514– no copyright infringement intended; for educational purposes)

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