Thomas More's Utopia

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Utopia, written by Sir Thomas More, is a description of a seemingly perfect society in contrast to a time and place where the wealthy were extravagant and the poor were worse than poor. England, during More’s time, (which was 1478 to 1535) was a place where the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The Enclosure Movement that began to rise dramatically in the 1400's under England’s first Tudor king, Henry VII, had created an enormous gap between the wealthy and the poor. The vast majority of people were homeless and poverty stricken, because arable farming had decreased on huge amounts of traditional farm land and which was the only way of survival for the peasants. Vagabonds were imprisoned and thieves were hanged by the thousands. During the reign of Henry VIII, there were at least 72,000 thieves hanged (p.15). The rich and powerful raised sheep, exported the wool for cash and became richer. In Utopia, More depicted a clear epitome of this time and, indirectly criticized England’s socioeconomical policies through a character created in the book, while reflecting his own humanistic beliefs concerning those policies. More’s, Utopia, or “perfect society,” is actually a creation of totalitarianism. However, totalitarianism, according to life in England during the Henry VIII reign, for the poor, would have been a much better life instead of one where politics, religion, and greed actually reduced the less fortunate to less than slaves.

In Book I of Utopia, More described the consequences of the Enclosure Move-ment and England’s wars that created vagabonds and thieves. Speaking of the “nobility, gentry and holy men”(p. 18), More wrote that these social classes not only lived in “idleness and luxury while doing society no good”(p.18), but, they also directly injured the peasants by enclosing land for pasture, thus, destroying homes and towns (p.18). Furthermore, because of landowners’ greed, the former workers of the land had no where to go...
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