Sir Thomas More was a Londoner from birth. He was born in 1478 in the last flowering of the late Middle Ages Roman Catholic world of that distant day. More was a brilliant student who studied at Oxford and at the law courts of Lincoln Inn. More rose high and became Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII. All was well with Sir Thomas as he served King and Country as lawyer, judge, diplomat, Steward of Oxford and Cambridge, pious Christian layperson and author. His book "Utopia" has become a deserved classic of satire.
England, in the year 1500, was emerging from a century of grim civil wars during which the cultural life of the country had deteriorated to a deplorable state. It was not until 1485 that the civil wars were ended by the victory of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, at Bosworth Field, establishing the Tudor dynasty with the crowning of Henry Tudor as Henry VII. During the next 118 years under the reign of the Tudors, especially through the long reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, England attained the status of a first-rate European power and produced a flourishing culture scarcely equaled in all the history of Western civilization.
Samuel Butler, Erewhon. This hugely inventive 1872 satire by the author of the anti-Victorian novel The Way of All Flesh is perhaps more accurately described as ‘anti-utopian’, though it follows the utopian narrative structure. The fictional land of Erewhon – almost ‘nowhere’ backwards – is the setting for this novel. Among the things satirised by Butler in this book is the rise of the machines, which Butler argues will evolve at an ever-faster rate – along the lines of Darwinian evolution – until the machines eventually overtake humans.
Utopia is an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempt to create an ideal society, and fictional societies portrayed in literature. It has spawned other concepts, most prominently dystopia. Many books that deal with "utopia" are actually putting out a plot or message of a "false utopia".
Francis Bacon's New Atlantis was probably written in 1624, but was not published until 1627, a year after the author's death. Like the work of his contemporaries, Campanella and Andreae, Bacon's book shows the influence of More in certain broad aspects. It purports to relate the discovery by an exploring expedition in the Pacific Ocean of an island where the natives have developed a society offering much to admire. The goal of the common good is sought through learning and justice. The principal attention of the account is focused on an elaborate academy of science. Bacon has incorporated in this society the basic ideas that he developed more elaborately in his longer philosophical and scholarly treatises; namely, that the advancement of human welfare can best be achieved through the systematic exploration of nature. His famous "scientific method" is founded on painstaking observation of natural phenomena and constructing, through inductive reasoning, a body of knowledge based on those observations. He urges experimentation to improve general knowledge and to develop inventions for human comfort and pleasure. The central institute in the capital of New Atlantis, called Solomon's House, is a huge academy which foreshadows the later creation of scientific laboratories and academies, such as the English Royal Society.
(Kobe) The second and third stops on our itinerary bring us to another Pacific archipelago, and the ports of Yokohama and Kobe, Japan. With its blend of modern industry amidst preserved ancient culture, Japan presents a variety of options for experiential learning. Students often enjoy getting a glimpse into traditional Geisha culture, taking a train to Tokyo, or exploring the many options for top-notch Japanese cuisine in Yokohama’s Minato Marai 21 neighborhood or the Harborland district in Kobe.
Bacon left this work unfinished, and it is impossible to say how he planned to treat other aspects of life in New Atlantis. He did not discuss the social and governmental systems of the islanders; hence, we do not know what his attitude toward communism was. Marriage was held sacred. His Atlantians exhibited a love of finery in costumes and jewelry that sets them apart from the typical utopians.
Looking Backward (1888) by Edward Bellamy, the most successful and influential American author writing in the utopian vein, presents a vision of a glorious future society. Julian West, a young, aristocratic Bostonian, falls asleep under a hypnotic trance in 1887, but through a remarkable set of circumstances, is awakened in the year 2000. His host family in this new age introduces him to their amazing society, explaining their institutions and the rationale for their system.