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Utopia (Everyman's Library (Cloth)) by…
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Utopia (Everyman's Library (Cloth)) (original 1516; edition 1992)

by Thomas More

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8,01461400 (3.54)2 / 161
Member:msmullins
Title:Utopia (Everyman's Library (Cloth))
Authors:Thomas More
Info:Everyman's Library (1992), Hardcover
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Utopia by Thomas More (1516)

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English (48)  Dutch (4)  French (3)  Hungarian (2)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All (61)
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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) ( )
  nbmars | May 11, 2017 |
Wat een heerlijk boek, dit product van een van de briljantste geesten van zijn tijd! Het denk- en schrijfplezier spat van de bladzijden, en het leesplezier was navenant.
Hoewel ik geen expert ben in vertalingen, schrijf ik de friste van dit 500 jaar oude boek toch graag toe aan de prachtvertaling van Paul Silverentand. More's humor, ironie, sarcasme en verontwaardiging komen helemaal tot hun recht. ( )
  Frans_J_Vermeiren | Jan 19, 2017 |
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. ( )
  teknognome | Nov 14, 2016 |
A highly influential classic with interesting letters but including pedantic essays heavily influenced by socialism. ( )
  JayLivernois | Mar 14, 2016 |
Interesting to read. I liked seeing the perspective of some issues in More's time. ( )
  katieloucks | Feb 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (130 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
More, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Black, Walter J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
del Pozo, Joan ManuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deller, JeremyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Donnelly, John PatrickTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fiore, TommasoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Itkonen-Kaila, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marshall, Peter K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muggeridge, FraserDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prechtl, Michael MathiasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodríguez Santidrián, PedroEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott, John AnthonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sheehan, John F. X.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turner, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
van Cleve, Hendrick, IIICover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wells, H. G.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There was recently a rather serious difference of opinion between that great expert in the art of government, His Invincible Majesty, King Henry the Eighth of England, and His Serene Highness, Prince Charles of Castile.
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The moment we showed them [the Utopians] some books that Aldus had printed, and talked a bit about printing and paper-making -- we couldn't explain them properly, as none of us knew much about either process -- they immediately made a shrewd guess how the things were done. Up till then they'd only produced skin, bark, or papyrus manuscripts, but now they instantly started to manufacture paper, and print from type. At first they weren't too successful, but after repeated experiments they soon mastered both techniques so thoroughly that, if it weren't for the shortage of original texts, they could have had all the Greek books they wanted.
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Cover description: Sir Thomas More's entertaining description of Utopia, an island supporting a perfectly organized and happy people, was a best-seller when it first appeared in Latin in 1516. This work of a Catholic martyr has later been seen as the source of Anabaptism, Mormonism, and even Communism. Utopia revolutionized Plato's classical blueprint of the perfect republic, mainly by its realism. Locating his island in the (then) New World, More endowed it with a language and poetry, and detailed the length of the working day and even the divorce laws. Such precision gives a disturbing and exciting impact to Utopia, which still remains a book of the future.
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In Utopia Thomas More painted a fantastical picture of a distant island where society is perfected and people live in harmony, yet its title means 'no place', and More's hugely influential work was ultimately an attack on his own corrupt, dangerous times, and on the failings of humanity.… (more)

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Yale University Press

3 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300084293, 0300002386, 0300084285

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141043695, 0141442328

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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