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.
Yet, the puzzle is that some of the practices and institutions of the Utopians, such as the ease of divorce, euthanasia and both married priests and female priests, seem to be polar opposites of More's beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church of which he was a devout member. Another often cited apparent contradiction is that of the religious tolerance of Utopia contrasted with his persecution of Protestants as Lord Chancellor. Similarly, the criticism of lawyers comes from a writer who, as Lord Chancellor, was arguably the most influential lawyer in England. It can be answered, however, that as a pagan society Utopians had the best ethics that could be reached through reason alone, or that More changed from his early life to his later when he was Lord Chancellor.
Thomas More was born in 1478. He succeeded Wolsey as Lord Chancellor of England, but came into conflict with the king, Henry VIII, by refusing to acknowledge him as sole head of the church. Charged with high treason, More steadfastly refused to takean oath impugning the pope's authority or upholding the king's divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He was beheaded in 1535. Paul Turner was educated at Winchester and King's College, Cambridge, and became an Emeritus Fellow of Linacre College, Oxford.
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels. In this work of 1726, which was an immediate bestseller, Lemuel Gulliver actually visits four different fantasy worlds, but the one that’s especially interesting here is the world of the Houyhnhnms, horses endowed with reason and speech, and a world in which humans are yobbish Yahoos flinging their muck around. Gulliver interprets the Houyhnhnms’ society as a utopian world, though whether Swift is inviting us to agree, or to distance ourselves from Gulliver, remains a contentious point.
Christianopolis by the German Johann Valentin Andreae likewise resembles Utopia in many respects. It is presented as told by one who was shipwrecked on a distant island whose capital city was Christianopolis. The citizens there use no money or own no property; thus all are on an equal basis economically and socially. Houses, furniture, food, and clothing are provided by the state without any discrimination. Men are married at 24, women at 18. Children are under their parents' care until they are of school age. After that they are reared by the community. Housekeeping arrangements are adequate but somewhat spartan. Husbands share in cooking, washing dishes, and making clothes.