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Utopia (1516)

by Thomas More

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,67880524 (3.54)2 / 182
In Utopia, Thomas More gives us a traveller's account of a newly-discovered island where the inhabitants enjoy a social order based on natural reason and justice, and human fulfilment is open to all. As the traveller, Raphael, describes the island to More, a bitter contrast is drawn between this rational society and the custom-driven practices of Europe. So how can the philosopher try to reform his society? In his fictional discussion, More takes up a question first raised by Plato and which is still a challenge in the contemporary world. In the history of political thought few works have been more influential than Utopia, and few more misunderstood.… (more)
  1. 70
    The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (2below)
    2below: Each one is fascinating in its own right but I think reading both (or reading them concurrently, as I did) provides an interesting perspective on two seemingly opposed extremes.
  2. 61
    The City of the Sun by Tommaso Campanella (paradoxosalpha, Sensei-CRS, Chevalier.dSion)
    paradoxosalpha: Early Modern scenarios for social reform, both set in a fictionalized New World beyond the Atlantic.
  3. 40
    In Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus (caflores)
  4. 30
    Island by Aldous Huxley (kxlly)
  5. 30
    Christianopolis by Johann Valentin Andreae (Sensei-CRS, Chevalier.dSion)
  6. 30
    Erewhon by Samuel Butler (KayCliff)
  7. 20
    New Atlantis by Francis Bacon (Chevalier.dSion, Sensei-CRS)
  8. 10
    A description of the famous kingdome of Macaria by Samuel Hartlib (Sensei-CRS)
  9. 12
    Candide by Voltaire (kxlly)
  10. 12
    Zwischen Utopie und Wirklichkeit: Konstruierte Sprachen für die globalisierte Welt by Jennifer Bretz (gangleri)
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English (61)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (4)  French (3)  Hungarian (2)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  German (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Utopia was written by Sir Thomas More in 1516. For those of you that know your history or at least watched the tv show The Tudors, know that he opposed Henry VIII's separation from the Catholic church and refused to acknowledge him as Supreme Head of the Church of England. Because of this and some say not attending the wedding of Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII he was tried for treason and beheaded in 1535. More was a fascinating person and I loved studying European history in college and reading up about the Tudors and the insanity that went on with Henry VIII. That said I really didn't like this book that much.

I know that 1516 was several centuries ago but reading about slavery and how women were treated in the fictional Utopia had me realizing that this was not the best book for me. The first part of the book that has More having a conversation with Raphael Hythloday who begins talking about how best it is to counsel a prince. I thought this part was very well done and it does explore some very interesting thoughts and ideas about how due to "yes men" and those who want to grow rich those who often counsel a prince are not thinking of the good of society as a whole.

Part two I didn't care for that much at all. We have More providing detailed information about the fictional country of Utopia. One thing that I did like was that women worked just like men and farmed. However, we have More discussing that every household has slaves and that many neighboring countries have people who are quite happy to be enslaved in Utopia. That part made me laugh out loud a bit. More also discusses how every religion is tolerated in Utopia and how priests can marry (and priests can be either men or women).

Pretty much Utopia sounds like a fool's paradise that I would visit but would quickly take my leave after a day.

Many people to this day argue about why More wrote Utopia and what was he trying to say. I for one can say I am surprised he wrote this when you see how committed he was to the Catholic church. Having priests marry would have been a radical notion back in the day along with women being allowed to be priests too. I guess I shouldn't be too shocked about priests marrying since there were many Popes that had children and mistresses. For example, Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503) had multiple children while a priest (also subject to a television show called the Borgias) and openly acknowledged them as his children. So I wonder if More saw the previous history of the Popes and thought that marrying and having children while a priest wasn't such a bad thing. Or possibly More wrote this in order to show that a perfect society in the England of the time and place he lived was not possible.

I do want to say that since I read this book for the most part on my Amazon Cloud Reader that the text ran together and I didn't have paragraphs to break up the flow which made it harder for me to get through. Once I read it on my Kindle though it was easier to read the paragraphs were there. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
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. ( )
  Faith_Murri | Dec 9, 2019 |
I recall reading this book, or excerpts from this book, many years ago, and finding it oddly interesting, but irrelevant. Now, knowing that Sir/St. Thomas More authorized the burning of six men for heresy, I cannot stomach seeing him described as a Humanist. Yes, despite the Catholic Church's equivocal canonization statement that he was a man limited by the culture of his times. Hmmm...

Maybe I will be able to read this book more objectively, should I live another 20 years. ( )
  FourFreedoms | May 17, 2019 |
The structure of this edition:

Part I: Introduction by China Mieville
1. Close to the Shore
2. The Limits of Utopia
Part II. UTOPIA by Thomas More
Discourses of Raphael Hythloday, of the Best State of a Commonwealth
Part III: Essays by Ursula Le Guin
1. A Non- Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be
2. Utopiyin, Utopiayang
3. A War without End
4. Operating Instructions

To mark the 500 year anniversary of Thomas More’s book, I thought I’d finally read it. Or listen to it, as it where (“all Librivox recordings are in the public domain”.) It took a while to get used to the language of Ralph Robinson’s translation from the original Latin. I finally settled into the patterns of lengthy subordinate clauses thanks to Ruth Golding’s English cadences.

This is a frame story, told in dialogues by the author, who had gone to the island of Utopia and talked with those who live there. The book actually begins in our world with a discussion and critique of current day politics, government and issues (i.e. it is just to punish a man with death who steals?)

The word “utopia” has been present in my understanding of perfect, harmonious places undermined with a strong sense of socialism gluing it together. I was surprised that Thomas More’s Utopia lacked a few things, mostly due to my expectations: The balance of gender roles functioning on the island and the fact that they had a military to defend against attacks. I had to remind myself that in the story, this island is located in our real world. The book was pretty fluffy. The driving force that allowed me to get through it was the IDEA OF UTOPIA, that which China Mieville’s introduction reminds us never to forget in his introductory essay, “Close to the Shore”. “Limits of Utopia” waxed heavily on the state of our world environmentally and more or less, politically. LeGuin’s essays were very inspirational. “A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be” has been published before and can be found on the web.

3.5 stars Thomas More’s book
5 The introductions and accompanying essays.
( )
  starlight17 | Mar 19, 2019 |
I recall reading this book, or excerpts from this book, many years ago, and finding it oddly interesting, but irrelevant. Now, knowing that Sir/St. Thomas More authorized the burning of six men for heresy, I cannot stomach seeing him described as a Humanist. Yes, despite the Catholic Church's equivocal canonization statement that he was a man limited by the culture of his times. Hmmm...

Maybe I will be able to read this book more objectively, should I live another 20 years. ( )
  ShiraDest | Mar 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (108 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
More, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Black, Walter J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Collins, J. ChurtonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crady, KirkContributorsecondary 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
Jäckel, EberhardAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kan, A.H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lumby, J. RawsonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marshall, Peter K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muggeridge, FraserDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prechtl, Michael MathiasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ritter, GerhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodríguez Santidrián, PedroEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott, John AnthonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sheehan, John F. X.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turner, PaulIntroductionsecondary 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.
Quotations
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.
Well, that's the most accurate account I can give you of the Utopian Republic. To my mind, it's not only the best country in the world, but the only place that has any right to call itself a republic. Elsewhere, people are always talking about the public interest, but all they really care about is private property. In Utopia, where there's no private property, people take their duty to the public seriously. And both attitudes are perfectly reasonable. In other 'republics' practically everyone knows that, if he doesn't look out for himself, he'll starve to death, however prosperous his country may be. He's therefore compelled to give his own interests priority over those of the public; that is, all the other people. But in Utopia, where everything is under public ownership, no one has any fear of going short, as long as the public storehouses are full. Everyone gets a fair share, so there are never any
poor men or beggars. Nobody owns anything, but everyone is rich – for what greater wealth can there be than cheerfulness, peace of mind, and freedom from anxiety? Instead of being worried about his food supply,
upset by the plaintive demands of his wife, afraid of poverty for his son, and baffled by the problem of finding a dowry for his daughter, the Utopian can feel absolutely sure that he, his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, his great-great-grandchildren, and as long a line of descendants as the proudest peer could wish to look forward to, will always have enough to eat and enough to make them happy. There's also the further point that those who are too old to work are just as well provided for as those who are still working.
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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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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

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