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.
In Book 2 Raphael Hythloday describes Utopia. The word `Raphael' means "God's healer", and the word `hythloday', from Greek, means "peddler of nonsense". The word `utopia' is a Greek pun that means both "good place" and "no place". If Hythloday is speaking nonsense motivated by the deepest moral compassion, where is the nonsense? Is Utopia a good place that is no place, or is it no place that is a good place? (The second reading can mean it is not a place that is a good place.)
The planning of their extensive program of amusements has two main purposes. First, it is intended to stimulate the economy. The games and feelies all require expensive equipment; that means more factories and also more opportunities for people to distribute their pay checks. Second, the government is concerned to keep everybody busy during waking hours to leave them no odd moments for thinking.
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.