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Utopia (Translated by Gilbert Burnet with Introductions by Henry Morley and William D. Armes)

Utopia (Translated by Gilbert Burnet with Introductions by Henry Morley and William D. Armes)

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Utopia (Translated by Gilbert Burnet with Introductions by Henry Morley and William D. Armes)

3.5/5 (13 evaluări)
177 pages
2 hours
Jan 1, 2017


Thomas More, a 16th century English lawyer, statesman, and philosopher, was one of the most controversial figures of his time. More opposed the Protestant reformation and denied the King’s position as head of the Church of England. This act would ultimately lead to his trial for treason and execution. Despite his tragic downfall, he will forever be remembered for his pioneering work “Utopia.” Thomas More first coined the word utopia in his 1516 book of the same name. Although the concept of a near perfect society dates back at least to the period of classical antiquity, it is Thomas More’s work that would establish itself as the most famous example of this genre of literature. More’s “Utopia” is described as an idealized island community upon which perfect social harmony has been achieved, all property is community owned, violence is nonexistent and everyone has the opportunity to work and live in an environment of religious tolerance. An inspiration for many social movements throughout history “Utopia,” will forever be regarded as a groundbreaking work of social philosophy. This edition follows the translation of Gilbert Burnet and includes introductions by Henry Morley and William D. Armes.
Jan 1, 2017

Despre autor

Sir Thomas More, venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a Chancellor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532.

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Utopia (Translated by Gilbert Burnet with Introductions by Henry Morley and William D. Armes) - Thomas More



Translated by GILBERT BURNET


Introduction by WILLIAM D. ARMES


By Thomas More

Translated by Gilbert Burnet

Preface by Henry Morley

Introduction by William D. Armes

Print ISBN 13: 978-1-4209-5404-3

eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-4209-5405-0

This edition copyright © 2016. Digireads.com Publishing.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Cover Image: A woodcut by Ambrosius Holbein, frontispiece to a 1518 edition. Colorization by Stephen Morrison, Copyright 2016, Digireads.com Publishing.

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Sir Thomas More, son of Sir John More, a justice of the King’s Bench, was born in 1478, in Milk Street, in the city of London. After his earlier education at St. Anthony’s School, in Threadneedle Street, he was placed, as a boy, in the household of Cardinal John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor. It was not unusual for persons of wealth or influence and sons of good families to be so established together in a relation of patron and client. The youth wore his patron’s livery, and added to his state. The patron used, afterwards, his wealth or influence in helping his young client forward in the world. Cardinal Morton had been in earlier days that Bishop of Ely whom Richard III. sent to the Tower; was busy afterwards in hostility to Richard; and was a chief adviser of Henry VII., who in 1486 made him Archbishop of Canterbury, and nine months afterwards Lord Chancellor. Cardinal Morton—of talk at whose table there are recollections in Utopia—delighted in the quick wit of young Thomas More. He once said, Whoever shall live to try it, shall see this child here waiting at table prove a notable and rare man.

At the age of about nineteen, Thomas More was sent to Canterbury College, Oxford, by his patron, where he learnt Greek of the first men who brought Greek studies from Italy to England—William Grocyn and Thomas Linacre. Linacre, a physician, who afterwards took orders, was also the founder of the College of Physicians. In 1499, More left Oxford to study law in London, at Lincoln’s Inn, and in the next year Archbishop Morton died.

More’s earnest character caused him while studying law to aim at the subduing of the flesh, by wearing a hair shirt, taking a log for a pillow, and whipping himself on Fridays. At the age of twenty-one he entered Parliament, and soon after he had been called to the bar he was made Under-Sheriff of London. In 1503 he opposed in the House of Commons Henry VII.’s proposal for a subsidy on account of the marriage portion of his daughter Margaret; and he opposed with so much energy that the House refused to grant it. One went and told the king that a beardless boy had disappointed all his expectations. During the last years, therefore, of Henry VII. More was under the displeasure of the king, and had thoughts of leaving the country.

Henry VII. died in April, 1509, when More’s age was a little over thirty. In the first years of the reign of Henry VIII. he rose to large practice in the law courts, where it is said he refused to plead in cases which he thought unjust, and took no fees from widows, orphans, or the poor. He would have preferred marrying the second daughter of John Colt, of New Hall, in Essex, but chose her elder sister, that he might not subject her to the discredit of being passed over.

In 1513 Thomas More, still Under-Sheriff of London, is said to have written his History of the Life and Death of King Edward V., and of the Usurpation of Richard III. The book, which seems to contain the knowledge and opinions of More’s patron, Morton, was not printed until 1557, when its writer had been twenty-two years dead. It was then printed from a MS. in More’s handwriting.

In the year 1515 Wolsey, Archbishop of York, was made Cardinal by Leo X.; Henry VIII. made him Lord Chancellor, and from that year until 1523 the King and the Cardinal ruled England with absolute authority, and called no parliament. In May of the year 1515 Thomas More—not knighted yet—was joined in a commission to the Low Countries with Cuthbert Tunstall and others to confer with the ambassadors of Charles V., then only Archduke of Austria, upon a renewal of alliance. On that embassy More, aged about thirty-seven, was absent from England for six months, and while at Antwerp he established friendship with Peter Giles (Latinised Aegidius), a scholarly and courteous young man, who was secretary to the municipality of Antwerp.

Cuthbert Tunstall was a rising churchman, chancellor to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who in that year (1515) was made Archdeacon of Chester, and in May of the next year (1516) Master of the Rolls. In 1516 he was sent again to the Low Countries, and More then went with him to Brussels, where they were in close companionship with Erasmus.

More’s Utopia was written in Latin, and is in two parts, of which the second, describing the place (Οὐτόπος—or Nusquama, as he called it sometimes in his letters—Nowhere), was probably written towards the close of 1515; the first part, introductory, early in 1516. The book was first printed at Louvain, late in 1516, under the editorship of Erasmus, Peter Giles, and other of More’s friends in Flanders. It was then revised by More, and printed by Frobenius at Basle in November, 1518. It was reprinted at Paris and Vienna, but was not printed in England during More’s lifetime. Its first publication in this country was in the English translation, made in Edward’s VI.’s reign (1551) by Ralph Robinson. It was translated with more literary skill by Gilbert Burnet, in 1684, soon after he had conducted the defence of his friend Lord William Russell, attended his execution, vindicated his memory, and been spitefully deprived by James II. of his lectureship at St. Clement’s. Burnet was drawn to the translation of Utopia by the same sense of unreason in high places that caused More to write the book. Burnet’s is the translation given in this volume.

The name of the book has given an adjective to our language—we call an impracticable scheme Utopian. Yet, under the veil of a playful fiction, the talk is intensely earnest, and abounds in practical suggestion. It is the work of a scholarly and witty Englishman, who attacks in his own way the chief political and social evils of his time. Beginning with fact, More tells how he was sent into Flanders with Cuthbert Tunstall, whom the king’s majesty of late, to the great rejoicing of all men, did prefer to the office of Master of the Rolls; how the commissioners of Charles met them at Bruges, and presently returned to Brussels for instructions; and how More then went to Antwerp, where he found a pleasure in the society of Peter Giles which soothed his desire to see again his wife and children, from whom he had been four months away. Then fact slides into fiction with the finding of Raphael Hythloday (whose name, made of two Greek words ΰθλος and δάιος, means knowing in trifles), a man who had been with Amerigo Vespucci in the three last of the voyages to the new world lately discovered, of which the account had been first printed in 1507, only nine years before Utopia was written.

Designedly fantastic in suggestion of details, Utopia is the work of a scholar who had read Plato’s Republic, and had his fancy quickened after reading Plutarch’s account of Spartan life under Lycurgus. Beneath the veil of an ideal communism, into which there has been worked some witty extravagance, there lies a noble English argument. Sometimes More puts the case as of France when he means England. Sometimes there is ironical praise of the good faith of Christian kings, saving the book from censure as a political attack on the policy of Henry VIII. Erasmus wrote to a friend in 1517 that he should send for More’s Utopia, if he had not read it, and wished to see the true source of all political evils. And to More Erasmus wrote of his book, A burgomaster of Antwerp is so pleased with it that he knows it all by heart.





Thomas More was born in London, February 7, 1478, the son of a lawyer in but moderate circumstances, who in 1517 became a judge in the Court of Common Pleas and three years later was transferred to the King’s Bench. After he had attended a free school in London, the boy, when about twelve, was placed in the household of Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, as a page; and at once made a great impression on his patron. William Roper, who became More’s son-in-law, says in his Life of More: Though he was young of years, yet would he at Christmas-tide suddenly sometimes step in among the players, and, never studying for the matter, make a part of his own there presently among them, which made the lookers-on more sport than all the players beside. In whose wit and towardness the Cardinal much delighting, would often say of him unto the nobles that divers times dined with him, ‘This child here waiting at the table, whosoever shall live to see it, will prove a marvellous man.’ The feeling of More towards his patron is shown in the eulogy that he goes somewhat out of his way to introduce into the Utopia.

That the boy’s natural abilities might be developed by education, the cardinal sent him, about 1492, to one of the colleges of Oxford. Here he remained two years, devoting himself to Latin, the newly introduced Greek, history, mathematics, and music. Young as he was, he became known as one of the foremost champions of the New Learning.

As More’s father wished him to follow his own profession, he withdrew him from the university when he was about sixteen and entered him as a student in one of the legal associations of London. After studying equity for two years at New Inn, an inn of chancery, he entered Lincoln’s Inn, an inn of court, for the study of the common law. So able and diligent was he that erelong he was appointed reader on law at one of the inns of chancery, and as such gave so great satisfaction that the appointment was renewed three years or more.

Notwithstanding his success, More was not, however, whole-heartedly devoted to his profession; but had a great longing for the religious, even the monastic, life. At one of the London churches he delivered a series of lectures on St. Augustine’s City of God, to which all the chief learned of the city of London resorted; and for about four years he gave himself to devotion and prayer among the Carthusian monks in the Charterhouse, subjecting himself, though without a vow, to their austerities, fasting, wearing a hair shirt next his skin (a practice he never entirely gave up), and even scourging himself. Finding, however, that his longing for a family life was too great to be overcome, he gave up all thought of becoming a monk, a Franciscan friar, or a priest; and devoted himself unreservedly to his profession.

Meanwhile, about 1498, he met the great Dutch scholar Erasmus, and a warm and enduring friendship grew up between them. They were united, writes Guthkelch, not only by their love of classical literature, but also by the likeness of their characters—their love of truth, their hatred of all shams and hypocrisies, their kindliness; above all, perhaps, by the possession of that kind of humor which pierces to the reality lying beneath the pomps and shows of the world. This friendship with Erasmus, who was thirteen years his senior and already had a European reputation as a scholar and writer, was of the greatest possible benefit to More in developing his genius and determining the character of his work.

In 1504 More became a member of Parliament, and at once made his influence felt. Henry VII. had asked for certain grants in connection with the marriage of his daughter to the King of Scotland that to More seemed excessive; he therefore led the opposition and succeeded in having the amount granted cut down to but a little over a quarter of that asked for. He is the first person in our history, writes Sir James Mackintosh, distinguished by the faculty of public speaking. Great was the king’s amazement on hearing that his ministers had been outwitted and his expectations disappointed by a beardless boy, and so sore was his displeasure that More found it prudent to retire to private life.

In the spring of 1505 More married Jane, or Joan, Colt, the daughter of a gentleman of Essex. Erasmus, who later in the year was again in England and was for some time a guest in More’s home, writes that, as she was a country-bred girl, he took care to have her instructed in learning, and especially in all musical accomplishments, and had made her such that he could have willingly passed his whole life with her, but a premature death separated them. During their five years of happy married life she gave More three daughters and a son.

While Erasmus was More’s guest, the two friends utilized their leisure by translating from Greek into Latin some of the dialogues of Lucian, the second-century satirist, More selecting as his share the Cynicus, Menippus, and Philopseudes; a work which was published in 1506. On a third visit to England, in 1508, Erasmus, while again More’s guest, composed in his home what became his most famous work, The Praise of Folly, the Latin title of which, Encomium Moriœ, has an intentional joke on the name of his host. In the same year, 1508, More made his first visit to the Continent. Nothing is known concerning it save his statement that he visited the universities of Paris and Louvain and took pains to ascertain what was taught in them and by what methods.

The year 1510 was a noteworthy one in More’s life: his first wife died and he married again, his second wife being Alice Middleton, a widow some years older than himself; he published a translation of a Life of John Picus, Earl of Mirandola, with letters and other writings by that famous scholar of the Italian Renaissance; and he was made under-sheriff of London, an office that required him once a week to act as judge in civil cases. He had won great fame as an able, upright lawyer, who would plead no cause that he considered unjust and took no fees from widows, orphans, or the poor he soon gave no less satisfaction and won no less renown as a judge than he had attained as a barrister. Roper states that there was no important case in which he was not engaged, and that by his private practice and his official position he made not less than £400 a year, which at the present time would equal an income of nearly $25,000.

In 1513 More composed his History of Richard III, which he did not complete and which was not published until long after his death. He wrote it

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Ce părere au oamenii despre Utopia (Translated by Gilbert Burnet with Introductions by Henry Morley and William D. Armes)

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  • (3/5)
    Utopia describes a different Commonwealth lifestyle. Would this lead to happiness? It's tough to say. Read it and see what you think.
  • (4/5)
    I loved the dialogue in book 1; Raphael is really quite woke. While the structure of Utopia itself was interesting, I would have rather liked a story rather than a textbook explanation. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable.
  • (4/5)
    Utopia offers an interesting critical look at live in the 16th century on the one hand as well as proposing an idea for an ideal civilization. Whether Utopia was meant to be a satire or represented More's personal views remains unclear, however, the discourse on Utopia contains several jokes and offers light reading.
  • (4/5)
    Utopia is a work written by Thomas More in response to the grave inequality and injustice in 16th Century England. It is difficult to take seriously, unlike the Politics and the Republic, as though it borrows heavily from ancient Greek thought, it is concerned more with satirising and correcting the problems of the times than with philosophising and arguing towards something absolutely ideal. This is made obvious in several ways: the account of Utopia is given by a traveler who has supposedly been there, and the names of the country, the cities, rivers, people, etcetera are all jokes, several of the policies in the country are merely told to ridicule current western practice, and many of the details are capricious and not given reasons for.Underlying the satire is a serious message though, that through equality, fair dealing, and general niceness, general happiness can be achieved. Utopia seems less practical than other works on ideal states, as well as less ideal, but as a commentary on 16th Century England it excels. To understand the reasoning behind this book it only needs to be understood in context. Contemporary England was unfair, property was being taken from the peasants by the thousands, to use to pasture sheep to make money for the government and the wealthy via the wool trade. This lead to a large proportion of the population being homeless and without means to survive, they turned to crime to survive and in turn were hanged for petty crimes, while the rich were living it up and swaggering round in fine clothes and jewels.More being an all round good egg disliked this, and this is why an essentially communist system is advocated here, communism being an improvement on severe feudalism, and blind equality being an improvement on gross inequality. The state described here would have seemed close to perfection for the average inhabitant of England at the time, but it doesn't stand up today in comparison to the superior systems described in the more rationally thought out Greek political writings. More gets away with it though, and this remains a worthwhile read, as a satire and a work of humour it compensates for its theoretical failings. What lets it down politically are the extreme socialist and communist values, which just don't strike me as satisfying. I prefer the proportionate equality described in Aristotle's Politics, and don't believe a system where everyone is treated exactly the same would work. More when writing this did not intend it to be taken completely seriously, but it is hard to tell quite where he is joking and where he is serious; this probably lessens its worth as a piece of political philosophy, but on the whole makes it more enjoyable a read.
  • (4/5)
    The work begins with written correspondence between Thomas More and several people he had met on the continent: Peter Giles, town clerk of Antwerp, and Jerome Busleiden, counselor to Charles V. More chose these letters, which are communications between actual people, to further the plausibility of his fictional land. In the same spirit, these letters also include a specimen of the Utopian alphabet and its poetry. It is a great book that allows one to think about human nature. Utopia itself is an imaginary place that is nonexistent. Many have wondered over the years why More even wrote it. I forces one to consider that if the government of a place allows circumstances to occur that remove mans ability to take care of basic needs on a just and right way, should they be punished when they achieve it by breaking their laws?
  • (5/5)
    This is the kind of book that wouldn't be done justice with just one read-through. One should carefully read, reread, analyze, take a break from, and read again. Every time I read it, I pick up on something new or come to a different conclusion about what More might have meant. It's truly fascinating, especially for the fact that the reaction upon reading may in fact reveal more about the reader than it does about More or the work itself. I've never met anyone who takes exactly the same thing away from it as someone else, and have been constantly amazed at the various insights people have that never occurred to me. To hear one's impressions of the book is to have a small window into their mind. For the sheer amount of thought and introspection Utopia provokes, I feel it is a must-read. Much is said about the actual description of Utopia, but I would encourage readers to pay just as much attention to the first portion of the book, where Raphael is introduced and speaks with his companions (the character versions of More and Giles). One might also want to keep in mind that Utopia (as opposed to Eutopia- "good place"), despite modern usage, means "no place" rather than some sort of ideal. Just as Raphael Hythlodaeus/Hythloday is a "speaker of nonsense", Utopia/"no place" is not so simple as to be the description of a perfect society. Or is it? That ambiguity is the beauty of More's work.
  • (4/5)
    Summary: Sir Thomas Moore sets forth his ideas for the ideal society. This books was instrumental in discussion of our own government. Quote: "Thus you see that there are no idle persons among them, nor pretences of excusing any from labor. There are no taverns, no ale houses, nor stews among them, nor any other occasions of corrupting each other, of getting into any corners, or forming themselves into parties; all men live in full view, so that all are obliged both to perform their ordinary task and to employ themselves well in their spare hours; and it is certain that a people thus ordered must live in great abundance of all things, and these being equally distributed among them, no man can want or be obliged to beg."
  • (3/5)
    Yet another of the books for which I could provide a synopsis but have never read cover to cover (until now). There is much to Sir Thomas More's communist (note my use of a lowercase "c") essay that surprised me. One can see the little twists to insure against More being burned at the stake (the Utopians were ready to receive Christ as they had more or less self-discovered Christ's communal teachings - but it didn't prevent him having his head cut off for refusing to succumb to its antithesis) along with it being presented in the form of a dialogue in Book I (as per Plato, Machiavelli, et al.). A few things made me think it might be more socialist than communist, if one accepts that communism attempts to abolish the state in order to achieve equality, whereas socialism aspires to the same aim but through governmental or formal institutional arrangements. The founder of Utopia, "King" Utopus, suggested the limitations of More's imagination, and had me thinking of modern Bhutan. But the notes on the translation point out that Ralph Robinson, the translator, had added his own interpretations of the original Latin that added kings and princes where none was intended. The introduction by Richard Manus explains the reasons for keeping the original translation and for that I was pleased. The focus on religion and the idea of bondsman doing all the unpalatable work for the commonwealth brings to the fore many of the problems of communism in it twentieth century practice. Aside from the obvious problems where the dictatorship of the proletariat has never ended in its practical forms, communism has never really obtained that level of freedom, particularly in terms of occupations or individuals becoming "Renaissance" men or women, whereas, and despite its reliance on the "Metroplesque" underground to make it practicable, this is achieved, along with a six-hour work day, in Utopia. The interesting use of mercenaries in warfare and foreign relations and the stigmas attached to precious metals and pearls (for bondsmen and children respectively) point to the absurdity of surviving ideas about value and money. The use of Plato suggests a reinvention of the Commonwealth of centuries before, whereas Jonathan Swift, too, draws on the folk tradition to protect himself from his own political commentary, albeit over a century later, but relying on similarly strange peoples with startlingly homogeneous cultures. But, taken in its times, More seems to have done a good deal of the theorising for Marx to arrive and merely iron out the shortcomings. Despite my familiarity with the work, there is much fruit to be harvested by taking the time to read thoroughly what one has previously learnt second-hand. Yet I am pleased that our education system is remarkable in that, despite its secondary-source nature, the synopses I (at least) have received are true to form, if otherwise lacking in detail.
  • (3/5)
    Reading this is a good exercise in humility, to realize how many subjects we discuss today have been discussed (in the same details) before. I find it interesting that people don't know just how serious More was about most of this. Is he sincere and exposing how he really feels even though he can't be more explicit or act on much of it? Or it is satirical? The subjects are presented with such respect that it isn't obvious either way.
  • (3/5)
    Thomas More's Utopia is nearly five centuries old yet it's still quite relevant and poignant today. It's somewhere between a fictional travelogue and a philosophical political treatise. I found it especially interesting that many of the complaints presented still ring true 500 years later. The sixteenth century writing can be a little dry at times but the narrative style and presentation are readily accessible and sometimes rather humorous.As I dove into this book I knew very little about it other than it was supposed to be More's outline of the "perfect city/state." Interestingly (as pointed out in some of the notes and introduction I read), the word "Utopia" is derived from Greek words and means both "good place land" and "no place land" simultaneously. So strangely it suggests that this is both a "good place" and that it doesn't (or can't) exist. That paradox was an interesting starting point for me as I read.The book is divided into two parts. The first "book" starts with letters between More and other real-life characters. This epistolary method of writing was quite common especially when trying to frame the reality of the situation. The letters work to introduce the characters and discussion that follows and to emphasize the significance of the information we are about to read. It also serves to introduce us to a character named Raphael who has apparently journeyed to the land of Utopia and has a great deal of expertise and respect for their customs and practices.The rest of "book 1" consists of a dialog between the recipients of these letters. The dialog includes criticisms of various political policies (primarily European) ranging from wars and international relations down to property rights, poverty and punishment of criminals. It is suggested that perhaps Raphael should go into politics as an advisor. The reply seems to be rather cynical in suggesting that the kings or rulers wouldn't listen to Raphael and that the current flaws of the system will simply be allowed to perpetuate rather than be healed. The best result Raphael could see would be that the leaders may be depressed at the knowledge of the flaws but wouldn't be willing to fix them. A worse result would be that Raphael would be run out of court as a wicked corruptor of society.The second "book" in Utopia goes beyond the philosophical discussions and into the specific details about the land of Utopia. First we get some general geographic details followed by information about the physical makeup of cities, communities and families. We're taught about the leaders of the society both how they're elected and what they do. We get significant detail about the nature of work within Utopia and the nature of property. We learn about international relations between Utopia and the outside world. We learn about their trade policies, immigration and emigration policies and how they handle wars. We're told in detail about criminal punishment, slavery, household relations (marriage, divorce, etc) and their concept of religion. Each aspect is presented in great detail and with various examples of implementation as well as sometimes comparing their methods to the flawed methods of European countries.Probably the biggest overall aspect of Utopia is the idea of a wholly communal society. There is no private property. There is no real hierarchy or aggrandizement of any individual, occupation or organization. Those who "lead" certain affairs of the country do so out of necessity for the greater overall good and not with the hopes of "looking good" or getting rich or leaving some sort of legacy. Criminals generally become slaves though their method of slavery is quite humane. The idea is that people are motivated to be good in order to keep the peace and to avoid the shame and restrictions that come in "slavery." The status quo is further maintained by making it a crime to not properly carry your own load. Laziness and idleness are not permitted. If you do not do your particular job, you are a criminal and become a slave.The Utopian concepts here are often (and rightly) seen as precursors to Marxist systems of government. The distinction is that More's Utopia is outlined as a pure and complete communistic society. Everything is in common from the property to the work to the rewards. Furthermore, while the society strives to improve through education, technology and other means the improvements are seen as existing to better the society as a whole and are taken in such a way as to provide mutual benefit to all involved. They would not consider any illicit means for obtaining advantage or influence. There is no place for pride or greed.The entire concept sounds very appealing and interesting on paper. There are also many very sound concepts that could see great success in practice. However, in trying to envision the society truly being put into practice, the problems come with the "humanity" of humans. Specifically the pride, greed, laziness and other vices of humanity. Over time, individuals would become bored or otherwise dissatisfied and try to change things. The book suggests that others in society would squash such desires and disallow any groups of such people to disrupt the system. Unfortunately the desire for power, influence or wealth will inevitably allow someone to find a way of scrambling to the top, even in a society with no formal "top."The idea of doing away with a monetary system and everybody working for the good of society is an ideal that would have potential if it could be sustained. But all it takes is a few small disruptions in the process and soon the whole system collapses in on itself.From a literary standpoint, Utopia is fun in that it seems to be the predecessor to a genre that's gaining popularity now. That being the utopian novel (and its friend, the dystopian novel, which is all the rage right now). I love reading about societies trying to become "perfect" in every way. It's such a great ideal. I find the dystopian concept very intriguing as well since it generally showcases the way these utopian societies will often overstep their bounds and collapse on themselves or become the enemy.Overall this was a very interesting read. I can definitely see it as being an influential book on political theory. Taking the concepts "off the page" becomes a rather interesting philosophical investigation into the nature of humanity and the things that help us rise or fall through generations. ***3 out of 5 stars
  • (4/5)
    In a very interesting way More paints his ideal state - state of Utopia. Here, all the virtues of men are cherished while all foolishness and - well, let us call them - all the bad things in society are non-existent, due to the very nature of Utopians, their state and the very way of their educational system.Interesting book, a rather subtle critique of the European states of the time (especially when it comes to vanity of the rich and uneven distribution of wealth among the populace - again some virtues glorified in the book may prove obsolete today [because of that ever-lasting temporal element that stands between writer and the reader or maybe some political reasons] but were focus of many a debate at the time). Man cannot but agree with many aspects of Utopia to be the very ideal - dedication to knowledge and constant strive to be better human being - but the required level of social maturity is so high that even today (maybe especially today) it may be considered to be way too high.Again, society itself is not peace loving as it may seem at the beginning - when faced with conflict (forced upon them or caused by them - for territory e.g) Utopians won't hesitate to fight, but first they will extensively use their allies (motivated by political means - sounds familiar does not it) to end the conflict rarely entering the fray themselves. This makes them very modern and in my opinion less ideal society. Again, those societies that reach the level of Utopians can be forgiven to feel supreme to every other nation/society and to behave in the manner they do - but nevertheless this stains their reputation.Very questions that arise in this book - like is it better to have free roaming citizenry without any restraints thus causing havoc on most on behalf of few, or to have ordered and disciplined society that will have limited liberties but live freely and under the benevolent government - are very common themes in SF literature (there exists no better example than Heinlein's "Starship Troopers").Writing style may be difficult but don't give up - book gives a rather good view of human nature and a lot can be learned from it.
  • (3/5)
    Interesting to read. I liked seeing the perspective of some issues in More's time.
  • (4/5)
    A highly influential classic with interesting letters but including pedantic essays heavily influenced by socialism.
  • (4/5)
    The word "utopia" was coined by More for his book from Greek for "no" and "place." There's some controversy as to whether this work is meant as serious or satire. Given not just the name of no place but things like the explanation of why the island is not reachable (someone coughed when the location was announced) I suspect the later. Moreover, this ideal state seems notably radical for a man who was famously a very orthodox Catholic. There's equality between the sexes (sorta), divorce, married and women priests, sanctioned euthanasia and religious tolerance (sorta). And it's a state without lawyers imagined by a man for whom that was his profession. I can't imagine from all I know of the man that what he presents is his ideal. I think it's more satire, more fanfic of Plato's Republic, than serious prescription. I mean c'mon, the slaves' chains are made of gold, children use jewels as playthings? Even the surname of the narrator, Raphael Hythloday, means "spreader of nonsense." Anyone really think More meant this all seriously? It's certainly not my ideal. Utopia is a republic that elects it's leaders. But like Plato's ideal republic it's one where lives are very tightly controlled. Where people live and their work is chosen by the state; there's no private ownership, no privacy, internal passports, sexual mores are legally enforced. There's even slavery--prisoners of war and people who have violated any of the republic's tyrannical laws. It sounds closer to China during Mao's cultural revolution than anyplace I'd want to live in. About the only aspects I can see as positive are the (relatively) egalitarian relationships between the sexes, the (relative) religious tolerance, the idea of keeping laws few and simple so that all could understand, and elected leadership. Which goes to show, one person's utopia is another's dystopia. Part of why I'm skeptical of utopias left and right--they often seem to crush too many individuals along the way to perfection, and I don't know what I'd find more horrifying, what you'd have to do to reach this utopia, or what it would be like to live under it--although goodness knows, we came close enough during the 20th century and it wasn't pretty. But what I'm reviewing and rating is not this imagined society, but this book about imagined societies. And I do love the idea of this kind of thought experiment, even if often I find attempts to create them (or at least impose them) wholesale the source of much evil. More might even agree with me. Given the satiric elements, I do think this is more about how utopias are unworkable than admirable. And you know, I think More gets it. There's this passage, said by the the character representing More himself:I don't believe you'd ever have a reasonable standard of living under a communist system. There'd always tend to be shortages, because nobody would work hard enough. In the absence of a profit motive, everyone would become lazy, and rely on everyone else to do work for him. Then, when things really got short, the inevitable result would be a series of murders and riots, since nobody would have any legal method of protecting the products of his own labour.That. Or they just starve to death. So I suspect those criticizing More as a commie are missing the mark. Some also complain this is a slog. Yet there is wit and humor here, and though some parts were tedious, well, it is short--only 134 paperback pages, not including notes, in my edition. Also More might have been an Englishman, but he wrote the book in Latin, so that means if you're reading it in English it's a translation. The first such translations didn't appear until after More's death. So if you're suffering from one with Middle English affectations, that's not More's fault--it's the translation you picked. I definitely think whatever you think of More's imaginary land, encountering these ideas are worth the read.
  • (5/5)
    Written about 1515 or 1516 and worth reading see pages 93 at bottom e.g. rich managing selfishly and 95 last para eg However, there are many things in the commonwealth of utopia that I rather wish, than hope, to see followed in our governments.He of course was beheaded and later made a Saint.
  • (4/5)
    The work begins with written correspondence between Thomas More and several people he had met on the continent: Peter Giles, town clerk of Antwerp, and Jerome Busleiden, counselor to Charles V. More chose these letters, which are communications between actual people, to further the plausibility of his fictional land. In the same spirit, these letters also include a specimen of the Utopian alphabet and its poetry. It is a great book that allows one to think about human nature. Utopia itself is an imaginary place that is nonexistent. Many have wondered over the years why More even wrote it. I forces one to consider that if the government of a place allows circumstances to occur that remove mans ability to take care of basic needs on a just and right way, should they be punished when they achieve it by breaking their laws?
  • (1/5)
    i couldn't get past the stilted language to get into this book. by the time i got into the groove i really just didn't think he had much to say. i had hoped for a lot more from this, and was sorely disappointed.
  • (3/5)
    I actually found this book to be quite boring. Sure, it's a classic. Sure, it outlines a theoretically equal world. But honestly, I found it difficult to keep engaged in what I was reading. How boring would life be if it were like what this book describes!
  • (4/5)
    An easy, reasonable quick read. More has some interesting communist ideas, infused with his version of Christianity and agrarianism. Many of his critiques about then-contemporary English/European society are still quite applicable.
  • (5/5)
    One of the classic that has withstood the critics throughout the years. It was written in 1516. The work was written in Latin and it was published in Louvain (present-day Belgium). Utopia is a work of satire, indirectly criticizing Europe's political corruption and religious hypocrisy. Many believe it may had been a major influence of the Protestant Reformation which begun the following year in 1517. Many later works has been based upon it.
  • (4/5)
    Utopia is the book that put the word "utopia" in our lexicon. Utopia, the word, is generally used to describe a place in which everything is a happy land where everybody is happy, and life is relatively easy. Like most children's fiction, where even the most dastardly of villains is just a litterbug or a liar, and he or she learns a valuable lesson before too many pages have passed.The book itself is written as a frame story in which More is telling others about his visit of a man named Raphael (though his last name depends on which translation you're reading), who told him about this wonderful island in the New World called Utopia, in which everybody is happy, even the slaves!Raphael goes on to explain the aspects of this island, and how it works, presenting a sort of proof-of-concept for better living (hint, hint, you new, developing nations in the New World!).No study of utopian writing is complete without at least starting here, so this book is highly recommended to any utopian (or even dystopian) reading schedule. It's also highly recommend if you like philosophical writing, and are looking for some great new ideas to consider.
  • (4/5)
    This is another one of those classic books that everyone should read. It was written in 16th century England so the language can make reading this a bit difficult/tedious. But it is worth it.This is a small book but it is broken down into two sections. The first book is letters between Sir Thomas More and several people he met. The reader is introduced to Raphael, whose the main character. The second book is about Utopia. The reader learns what life is like there, how things are run. For instance, people are re-distributed around the households in the Utopia to keep numbers even. People wear the same type of clothing, no one is unemployed. Everything is kept as equal as possible. What I found interesting abotu Utopia was that it was a welfare state, not unlike the U.S., but it was taken to the extreme. I liked this book and I would recommend it to everyone. Again, it's a classic and everyone should read this at least once in their life time.
  • (2/5)
    If this audiobook hadn't been a free offer, I would never have tried to listen to this classic instead of reading it. I have found that I have a very hard time absorbing difficult or factual or philosophical material via audiobook. Knowing that, I did an 'immersion' read with this book, reading the text as I listened. So my low rating isn't a reflection upon Simon Prebbles narration per se (though his somewhat gravelly voice did tend to make me sleepy!).Thomas More's vision of a idyllic society was somewhat disappointing for me. The society he describes had some fascinating aspects but as a modern woman, there were a few too many chauvinistic attitudes. I also had some issues with some of the religious aspects such as this passage:"he [Utopus] therefore left men wholly to their liberty, that they might be free to believe as they should see cause; only he made a solemn and severe law against such as should so far degenerate from the dignity of human nature, as to think that our souls died with our bodies, or that the world was governed by chance, without a wise overruling Providence: for they all formerly believed that there was a state of rewards and punishments to the good and bad after this life; and they now look on those that think otherwise as scarce fit to be counted men, since they degrade so noble a being as the soul, and reckon it no better than a beast’s: thus they are far from looking on such men as fit for human society, or to be citizens of a well-ordered commonwealth; since a man of such principles must needs, as oft as he dares do it, despise all their laws and customs: for there is no doubt to be made, that a man who is afraid of nothing but the law, and apprehends nothing after death, will not scruple to break through all the laws of his country, either by fraud or force, when by this means he may satisfy his appetites."
  • (5/5)
    “Thus I am wholly convinced that unless private property is entirely done away with, there can be no fair or just distribution of goods”“When I run over in my mind the various commonwealths flourishing today, so help me God, I can see nothing in them, but a conspiracy of the rich, who are fattening up their own interests under the name and title of the commonwealth”“If money disappeared, so would fear, anxiety, worry, toil, and sleepless nights. Even poverty, which seems to need money more than anything else for its relief, would vanish if money were entirely done away with.Sir Thomas More’s Utopia is littered with seemingly revolutionary thoughts and ideas like those above; has been claimed as an early example of medievalism, modernism, socialism, communism; it has also been claimed by protestants, catholics, idealists and even Nazis, but why on earth would a reactionary churchman like Thomas More write and publish such a tract? It has to be a joke doesn't it?. If it is then the joke is on More because his invented Utopia has passed into common usage today as an ideal world.More’s story is simplicity itself. He is introduced by his friend Peter Giles to Raphael Hythloday, who is visiting London after a voyages across uncharted seas searching for new lands. He has chanced upon the island of Utopia where he believes he has found the perfect society and is eager to return. Before Raphael can tell his story of the wonders of Utopia, he describes a dinner he had attended with Cardinal Morton and a distinguished lawyer. More uses a first person narrative for Raphael to describe the evils of the way England is currently ruled paying particular attention to the plight of the poor and the infirm. Rafael’s knowledge of foreign countries and the society’s he has witnessed on his travels leads him to propose alternative ways of dealing with the ills of England. The Utopians are introduced into the conversation and More and Peter Giles are eager to learn more details of how their society is organised and so they arrange to have dinner with Raphael and his descriptions of Utopia take up the whole of Book Two.Utopia’s geography (although not where it can be found), its cities, its social organisation, its work habits, its relations with other countries, moral philosophy, art of warfare and their religion are all lovingly described by Raphael. There are no interruptions from More or his friend as a picture of Utopia emerges. Of course there are contradictions in the story and it soon emerges that a Utopian society is based on discipline at the expense of liberty. The pursuit of pleasure for all and the good of the commonwealth cannot be achieved without restrictions on freedom that would be unacceptable to people in Thomas Mores’s circle. A point he makes on the final page of his book when he allows himself to think about what he has heard:“……but my chief concern was to the basis of the whole system, that is, their communal living, and their moneyless economy. This one thing alone takes away all the nobility, magnificence, splendour, and majesty which (in the popular view) are considered the true ornaments of any nation”Utopia was published in 1516 just about the same time as copies of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” were appearing and on the face of it the books are worlds apart. Machiavelli’s advice to his Prince is based on pragmatism and commercialism with the basic premise that a ruler always needs to be tougher and/or fairer than his opponents to maintain his position and/or increase his power.. More’s Utopia is based on a shared communalism where everybody benefits from just laws with the pursuit of pleasure for all being the chief aim. However running underneath both books is an undercurrent of pessimism; a pessimism that bites deep into the human psyche. I think that Machiavelli and More took a similar view of mankind, they saw around them people whose natural instincts were totally selfish, anarchic and sinful, whose wilful pursuit of riches and power had to be kept in check.Thomas More as far as we can judge was an ambiguous character; "a man for all seasons", in his early life particularly he was much respected in humanist circles, a friend of Erasmus and known for his wit and sagacity, however when he became active in public life; C R Elton says that “he remained determined to apply coercion and judgement to dangerous sinners, rather than compassion and comprehension.” (he was instrumental in enforcing the ultimate penalty of burning for heretics). There is evidence that he regretted the publication of Utopia and certainly when his circle of friends commented on it they thought it was a delightful little joke. The way More told his story especially by including real people in book one, convinced some people at the time of the validity of Utopia, and while today we are sure that the island of Utopia does not exist, there are still plenty of people who can read into More’s book serious political philosophy.I think it is a satire and no doubt an indictment of early 16th century society, but Raphael Hythloday’s Utopia is an excuse for the witty More to poke as much fun as possible at the society in which he lived. It is a book that is still open to many different interpretations and will produce plenty of ammunition for debate on the ills of current society and how we would like to see a perfect community organised. It is a fun read and at only 85 pages can easily be read in one sitting.I read the Norton Critical Edition, which has some excellent critical essays following a clear and absorbing translation of the text by Robert M Adams. Some contextual information is also included along with extracts from letters that were written by More and his friends, which add immensely to the enjoyment of More’s little book. There are also extracts from other authors attempts at defining a Utopia, which may be of interest. This is a classic that I thoroughly enjoyed and so I rate it at 5 stars.
  • (4/5)
    Thomas More brought his considerable skills from numerous fields to bear when he created Utopia. His intimate knowledge of the workings of the English legal system, government and politics enabled him to posit an ideal society, wherein, More corrected the ills which plagued sixteenth century England and Europe.People in Utopia held few possessions privately. The government organ-ized the economy, the methods of producing food and most other goods and ser-vices. Work and hardships were shared as equitably as possible. Similarly, all people partook of the bounty of the food, shelter and goods, with few exceptions.More anticipated the objections that this idealized society would raise; and he answered them at length. He explained how Utopians dealt with criminals, showing a means of isolating society from harmful individuals, while yet deriving benefit from their existence and providing deterrent examples to those teetering on the verge of crime. In an age where torture and mutilation were common and executions were routine, More offered a voice of reason and humanity. Signifi-cantly, his methods of dealing with crime did not mete out the same punishment for all offenses, both severe and trivial.More’s world was based on his well-considered principles, humanistic be-liefs and plain common sense. He was not one-dimensional like Niccolo Machia-velli; More was not driven by desire for power, fame or wealth. He wanted to show a means of organizing a well-ordered society in which the people, not the prince, would live happy and productive lives. On the other hand, More did not set his culture in a world where all was roses and problems did not exist. Whereas Erasmus was strong on encouraging upright and moral behavior, he seemed light on the realization that, in the real world, people often fail to live up to his high ideals. More’s society took man’s frailties into account. More pro-vided means for dealing with crime and war, as well as, with personal envy and greed. More understood that his argument would be the stronger if he could head off objections by answering them in advance.In addition, More’s work showed his love of humor. His organization of the material, arranged as if he had genuinely talked to someone who had been to Utopia, and the overall pains More took to imbue the work with as much authen-ticity as possible, must have been a source of great pleasure to him.Besides giving him a private chuckle at putting over his joke, More had a more serious level in mind in Utopia. Placing his society in an imaginary or dis-tant land, allowed him the freedom to address a variety of political and social is-sues with impunity. Had More directly criticized Henry VIII’s spending, his readi-ness to dispense executions, his policy of war, or the ostentatious court, More would have faced serious charges. By using the oblique approach, besides al-lowing More to indulge his love of irony and satire, he was able to elude charges of treason or sedition. More showed great courage in publishing this work, as in his life in gen-eral. He saw wrongs and dared to speak out about them. But with his fine mind and keen sense of balance, he also knew that to throw himself into championing a cause at the expense of his life would do neither him nor the cause any good. Although he ultimately was martyred for his beliefs, evidence suggests that More did not actively seek our martyrdom. He enjoyed life far too much to risk death needlessly. However, his personal belief in God and religion, as well as his per-sonal integrity, demanded that he not shrink away if death were his only accept-able recourse.Alex Hunnicutt
  • (3/5)
    I'm sure Utopia has lost much of its meaning through the translation from its native Latin (By no means is this comment directed at the translation - I think much of the difficulty lies in the inherent limitations of English).For the rating I have given, I considered three things: the general enjoyment from reading the book, the ideas contained within and the historic importance (and context) of the work. Immediately after I finished reading the book, I determined that I didn’t enjoy it. After giving it much thought, I’m still not sure why that is – possibly the difficulty I have with the concept that all men are created equal, yet women are subservient to men (although, given the historical context, Moore can hardly be chastised for that), the inherent flaws I see in the ability of any society to function as described, or even some of the other more subtle difficulties I see with the novel (such as attempting to applying logical debate to religion).The difficulty I’m also faced with is the degree to which Moore is suggesting that Utopia would be the perfect society (particularly since he states within the text that he does not agree with all of the Utopian ideals) and the degree to which it is a work of satire (a highly debated topic among academics - see for example the introduction in the Penguin Classics edition).
  • (2/5)
    First published in 1516 (in Latin), the book we usually call “Utopia” originally had a much longer title, which can be roughly translated as “Concerning the Best State of a Republic and the New Island of Utopia.” It was not translated and published in English until 1551. At first, I was surprised that the language of the copy I read seemed quite modern for a book written in the 16th century, but I now realize that it was a recent translation of the original Latin rather than the first English translation.Thomas More, the author, was councillor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England. Working for Henry was even more perilous than working for Donald Trump (at least, so far) — More was beheaded in 1532 for refusing to take the king’s Oath of Supremacy. The book takes the form of a discussion among fairly learned men, one of whom purports to have visited the mythical island of Utopia. More intended the word utopia to mean “no place.” In modern English, it has come to mean impractically ideal. The book itself is part satire, part wish fulfillment, and the society described is indeed impractically ideal.In some ways More was a precursor to Karl Marx. The Utopians had no need for money because everyone worked hard enough to produce ample goods and shared them with everyone else. No one took more than he needed. Such an arrangement is unlikely to prosper among real human beings. Although More was describing what he may have thought to be an ideal society, he expressed a few ideas that seem repugnant to the modern reader. For example, the Utopians kept slaves, although slavery was a form of punishment for breaking the law. In addition, the Utopians were wont to extend the boundaries of their society by sending their men:“…over to the neighboring continent, where, if they find that the inhabitants have more soil than they can well cultivate, they fix a colony, taking the inhabitants into their society if they are willing….But if the natives refuse to conform themselves to their laws they drive them out of those bounds which they mark out for themselves, and use force if they resist, for they account it a very just cause of war for a nation to hinder others from possessing a part of that soil of which they make no use….”This sounds a lot like white Americans justifying Manifest Destiny. The Utopians had the same disputes of moral philosophy as the 16th century English. However, More says they “never dispute concerning happiness without fetching some arguments from the principles of religion as well as natural reason.” They spend their lives in pursuit of pleasure, but the pleasures they pursue are of a virtuous kind, forsaking “foolish…pleasure [like] hunting, fowling, or gaming, of whose madness they have only heard, for they have no such things among them.” More’s own attitude toward Utopia and the Utopians is a bit ambiguous, in that he concludes the book with the sentiment that: “I cannot perfectly agree to everything [described above]. However, there are many things in the commonwealth of Utopia that I rather wish, than hope, to see followed in our governments.” Utopia is significant historically, but I don’t think it has much practical to say about forming a just society. It is more a description of what a just society would look like if its citizens were not as self serving, untrusting, and greedy as real humans. (JAB)
  • (3/5)
    Gaat minder over Utopia, dan over de huidige maatschappij en wat daarin verkeerd loopt. De kritiek is veel scherper, en vooral veel handiger geformuleerd dan bij Erasmus.