Utopia (The Bedford Series in History and Culture)

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9780312122560: Utopia (The Bedford Series in History and Culture)

One of the most influential books in the Western tradition, More's Utopia (1516) describes an imaginary island community enjoying perfect social and political harmony. This volume is the first to offer the original English translation of the work in an edition that allows readers to explore in-depth the book's historical and intellectual contexts as well as the circumstances of its reception. A detailed introduction discusses the literary and philosophical underpinnings of More's thought and situates More and his work within the political, economic, and religious contexts of 16th century England.

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Review:

The Life of Thomas More is Peter Ackroyd's biography--from baptism to beheading--of the lawyer who became a saint. More, a noted humanist whose friendship with Erasmus and authorship of Utopia earned him great fame in Europe, succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Lord Chancellor of London at the time of the English Reformation. In 1535, More was martyred for his refusal to support Henry VIII's divorce and break with Rome. Ackroyd's biography is a masterpiece in several senses. Perhaps most importantly, he corrects the mistaken impression that Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons has given two generations of theater and film audiences: More was not, as Bolt's drama would have us believe, a civil disobedient who put his conscience above the law. Ackroyd explains that "conscience was not for More an individual matter." Instead, it was derived from "the laws of God and of reason." If the greatest justice in this book is analytic, however, its greatest joys are descriptive. Ackroyd brings 16th-century London to life for his readers--an exotic world where all of life is enveloped by the church: "As the young More made his way along the lanes and thoroughfares, there was the continual sound of bells." --Michael Joseph Gross

Book Description:

Thomas More's Utopia is one of the supreme achievements of Renaissance humanism. His complex and ironic account of an imaginary communist society has not only given rise to the genre of utopian fiction but has been an inspiration to generations of political reformers.

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