Sir Thomas More, Utopia
Sir Thomas More was an English lawyer, author and a public figure. His father was a famous judge. His mother died when he was young. As a teenager he is placed by John Morton, the Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury. He enjoyed a good education there and got in touch with a wider culture. After his stay with John Morton More went to Oxford, where he studied 1492 to 1494 arts (belles lettres). After two years by Morton, his father came back and said he must go study on the law school
Between 1494 and 1501 More went to law school. He developed his knowledge and is he was influenced by the Church Fathers Augustine and the humanist Erasmus. He learned the Greek language
More became a leading politician, not only in England but also in the rest of Europe. He was a famous humanist and scholar, and he was known as a wise man.
The slogan of his book:
Noplacia was once my name,
That is, a place where no one goes.
Plato’s Republic now I claim
To match, or beat at its own game;
For that was just a myth in prose,
But what he wrote of, I became,
Of men, wealth, laws a solid frame,
A place where every wise man goes:
Goplacia is now my name.
In his book he describes the utopia of an ideal political system. He does that with a not existing island state. He puts himself in the book against the economic and political policy in England.
More wrote the book in Latin. The first translation in Dutch, with an introduction by the translator, was created in 1903 by Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis.
Utopia consists of two books. It is written as a dialogue between the author and Raphael Hythlodaeus, an imaginary traveller who has visited many foreign countries.
The first book
The first book is a critique. It describes the English society at the beginning of the sixteenth century. In that society there is much corruption and tyranny. The main issue is the exploitation of the poor people by large landowners.
The second book
The second book is the opposite of the first book. He discusses an ideal, imaginary island. There is no private property. More describes the problems of his time, the religious, social, political and philosophical. He always writes in order of a solution.
The life in Utopia is not to compare with life on our earth. You must understand that More never intended to make a Utopia in the real world.
Besides his famous Utopia, he wrote poems, religious works, letters and an historical work.
More’s Utopia used to criticize the Europe of his time, it should not be seen as Mores own vision of the perfect society.
Special for the time that he writes is that in the early Renaissance there are a few more books based on a utopia:
• Francis Bacon: The new Atlantis (1627)
• Tommaso Campanella: La città del sole (1623)
• Thomas More: Utopia (1516)
• Johann Valentin Andreae: Christianopolis (1619)
In 1529 More became the judge, that did not last long because in 1532 he had resigned. Officially, the reason was his illness, but actually it was because he was sick of the behaviour of the king against the church. This was later known.
More was again asked to be faithful to the king, More refused and he was found guilty of betrayal.
On July 6, 1535 Sir Thomas More’s head was cut off, his last words were: “The king’s good servant, but God’s first.”
In 1886 More was beatified by Pope Leo XIII. St. Thomas More is the patron saint of lawyers and statesmen.