Thomas More lived from 1477 to 1535. He was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1535 for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. Utopia, written in Latin, was published in 1516. It was translated to English by Ralph Robinson in 1551. The translation by Clarence Miller was published by Yale University Press in 2001. [This review is based on the Miller translation.]
Italy was unquestionably the fountainhead of Renaissance civilization. As early as the 14th century, men of enlightenment, notably Petrarch and Boccaccio, were introducing Renaissance concepts and proclaiming a new allegiance to classical antiquity, and through the 15th century a feverish development toward new attitudes and styles marked the work of brilliant artists, scholars, philosophers, and men of letters. Through most of the 15th century, the achievements were predominantly Italian, but by the beginning of the 16th century the movement was spreading to other countries of western Europe; at the same time that Italy was losing her political independence through conquests by French, Spanish, and Austrian armies, she gradually yielded her preeminence in the arts and letters to France, Spain, and England.
The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656) by James Harrington, is a philosophical novel that described the existence of an ideal constitution, one that is designed to allow for the existence of a utopian republic. It depicted the functions of everyone in this fictional republic - from the agrarian workers, to the low officials, al up to the rights of the ruling senate.
The name Raphael, though, may have been chosen by More to remind his readers of the archangel Raphael who is mentioned in the Book of Tobit (3:17; 5:4, 16; 6:11, 14, 16, 18; also in chs. 7, 8, 9, 11, 12). In that book the angel guides Tobias and later cures his father of his blindness. While Hythlodaeus may suggest his words are not to be trusted, Raphael meaning (in Hebrew) "God has healed" suggests that Raphael may be opening the eyes of the reader to what is true. The suggestion that More may have agreed with the views of Raphael is given weight by the way he dressed; with "his cloak... hanging carelessly about him"; a style which Roger Ascham reports that More himself was wont to adopt. Furthermore, more recent criticism has questioned the reliability of both Gile's annotations and the character of "More" in the text itself. Claims that the book only subverts Utopia and Hythlodaeus are possibly oversimplistic.