Thomas More

Utopia
  • Utopia

  • 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.

Thomas More was born a Londoner in 1477 or 1478. He served as a page, then studied at Oxford, was called to the bar and subsequently had a highly successful career in the City. Sent on an embassy to Flanders in 1515, he began Utopia there and completed it back in London. From 1528 he actively resisted innovation in religious matters and clashed with Henry VIII over his break with the Church. In July 1535, after he refused to accept royal supremacy over the church, he was tried as a traitor at Westminster Hall and beheaded on Tower Hill. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935.