One highly influential interpretation of Utopia is that of intellectual historian Quentin Skinner. He has argued that More was taking part in the Renaissance humanist debate over true nobility, and that he was writing to prove the perfect commonwealth could not occur with private property. Crucially, Skinner sees Raphael Hythlodaeus as embodying the Platonic view that philosophers should not get involved in politics, while the character of More embodies the more pragmatic Ciceronian view. Thus the society Raphael proposes is the ideal More would want. But without communism, which he saw no possibility of occurring, it was wiser to take a more pragmatic view.
Denis Diderot's Supplement to Bougainville's "Voyage" (1772) is a prime example of the eighteenth-century vogue of primitivism which was spurred by Rousseau's thesis of the "noble savage" and which generated such novels as St. Pierre's Paul and Virginia and Chateaubriand's Atala. Diderot's book makes a case for the simple, natural ways of a South Sea Island culture as reported by Bougainville, a French explorer. The central portion of the story presents an imaginary dialogue between a French chaplain and a native of Tahiti (Orou) in which a comparison is made between the customs and institutions of Europe and those of Tahiti. The way of life of the islanders is eloquently defended, and that of the Europeans discredited. According to the Tahitian, man's natural instincts, which are equated with the laws of nature, are interpreted as justifying complete freedom in sexual relations. Their observance of community property is defended as minimizing personal conflicts and legal entanglements and promoting a general concern for the welfare of the community as a whole.
Excellent read and great translation for the modern reader. Retranslated from the original Latin, with the Greek translated further into English (i.e. River Nowater), the satire and biting commentary of More comes alive for the modern reader who likely lacks the Greek or Latin language skills of the educated classs of the 16th Century. This translation makes Utopia eminently readable. This edition also includes an extensive commentary and glossary for the reader new to the work.
The Medieval document most frequently cited in historical surveys of the utopian theme is Dante's Latin treatise on government, De Monarchia (1308?). Here again the differences between that work and More's are greater than the resemblances, and it is not suggested that More was acquainted with Monarchia. Dante, living in the period when the rivalry between popes and emperors for secular supremacy was splitting nations, cities, and even families, wrote his book to maintain the right of the emperor to independent authority over Europe in temporal matters, refuting the claims of the papacy that the emperor owed his title to the pope as God's vicar and was the pope's subject in matters temporal as well as spiritual. Dante does present his practical concept of an ideal commonwealth, the Holy Roman Empire. What this meant to him was a United Europe under the rule of a man of authority, an emperor elected — not by the populace but by the designated electors.
Slavery is a feature of Utopian life and it is reported that every household has two slaves. The slaves are either from other countries or are the Utopian criminals. These criminals are weighed down with chains made out of gold. The gold is part of the community wealth of the country, and fettering criminals with it or using it for shameful things like chamber pots gives the citizens a healthy dislike of it. It also makes it difficult to steal as it is in plain view. The wealth, though, is of little importance and is only good for buying commodities from foreign nations or bribing these nations to fight each other. Slaves are periodically released for good behaviour. Jewels are worn by children, who finally give them up as they mature.
On becoming Lord Chancellor after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey he was zealous in the persecution and burning of reformers and Protestant. More opposed the English translation of the Bible by William Tyndale. He could be cruel and was a bitter enemy of anyone who opposed the Church. Like most people of the age he was superstitious believing firmly in ghosts, omens in dreams and the literal interpretation of the Bible. More called for reform in the existing church but believed everyone should obey the Pope in Rome as a father is obeyed in the well ordered home. He would not brook breaking away from Roman Catholicism.
Sir Francis Bacon, New Atlantis. Although he never completed it, this utopian novel by one of the great philosophers of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras is well worth reading. It was published posthumously in 1627 and outlines a perfect society, Bensalem (its name suggesting Jerusalem) founded on peace, enlightenment, and public spirit. Available in Three Early Modern Utopias Thomas More: Utopia / Francis Bacon: New Atlantis / Henry Neville: The Isle of Pines (Oxford World’s Classics) along with More’s Utopia and another early utopian novel, Henry Neville’s The Isle of Pines.