Utopia- Book One
2) Enclosure Movement: One of the most quoted bits of Book One is the part about
sheep devouring men (37). (Feudal system slowly becoming extinct). The mentioned
quote refers to sheep taking over the areas once allotted to serfs (working farmers).
Lords would evict families or tear down their houses to make way for pastures to farm
sheep (which requires minimal human labor – only a few shepherds).
The Topics of Book One:
Thieves, Justice, Advisors, Kingship, Viable Economic System
Thieves: Wrong to hang thieves; better to eliminate the cause of the need to steal (34).
-Those causes include loss of land and work for rural people (37-38), too many
unemployed private soldiers and retainers
Vice: Vice is the cause of crime- gambling, drinking, sexual vice
Some of Hythloday’s observations on humane and efficient justice will be echoed in
Book Two. Appeal to Bible: Commandment says not to kill (40).
Counter-productive to execute for theft; it may encourage murder (40). Precedent for
punishing productively – Romans punished crime by hard labor (41).
Workable solution? Used by Polyerites in Persia - - people who are more interested in
their own kingdom than other people’s (41). Raphael lists their method of punishing
crime (41-43). Here, thieves repay the value of the theft, and then are put to work for the
good of the state – directly or indirectly. The families are not necessarily left
impoverished. They (prisioners) wear distinctively coloured clothing and have special
haircuts and each has one ear clipped. They can be put to death (as can people that
illegally help them) for breaking the rules, such as fleeing, accepting money or touching
weapons. On the other hand, obeying the rules and working hard can result in freedom.
The Cardinal in the story suggests that it might be tried on those who are already under
sentence of death as a probationary measure, and
Advisors: As mentioned previously, Book One is partly of a dialogue on the pros and
cons of an intellectual becoming an advisor to a King. Important to note that Thomas
More did become an advisor to the King and eventually Lord Chancellor. Is the dialogue
representing his own assessment of the pros and the cons? On page 31 Peter suggests
that Raphael should be an advisor, an opinion shared by More on p.32. Raphael prefers
to keep his independence, pointing out on pp.32-3 the potential problems in getting ideas past existing advisors - because of their vanity, desire to keep their positions,
Kingship: More speaks to Raphael of his suitability as a King’s advisor. It is plausible
that this dialogue that More has in the book is concerning his internal struggle over
whether he himself should become advisor to the King (Henry VIII).
Concerning the kingdom of France, Hythloday discusses hypothetically, but clearly the
advice would apply to England too. On p.48 he offers the example of neighbours of the
Utopians – the Anchorians – whose King eventually learned to focus on home rather
Concerning the methods that Kings use to increase their wealth – altering the value of
money, pretending a war is imminent, fining people for breaking forgotten laws,
inventing new laws which people would have to pay to circumvent, and getting the
judges on your side in any dispute over money (most important) (49). Typically advisors
would argue for a King to be as rich as possible, but Hythlodaeus disagrees, suggesting
that a king is supposed to be like a good shepherd, looking after the welfare of his flock
– in this case, ensuring the wealth of his subjects rather than his own income (50).
Example of financially responsible Kingship – that of some more neighbours of the
Utopians: Macarians (51-52). Raphael knows this sort of advice is not welcome to
European kings, and, on pages 52-53, More agrees – there is no point trying to
convince someone with an argument antithetical to their own. Instead, however, he
suggests one should still be an advisor but should water down the ideas, as has
happened in Christianity (53-54). Moreover, trying to weasel your way out of supporting
things you see as bad is dangerous – you would still be seen as a traitor (54). Plus (a)
he might be corrupted or (b) resist corruption but be used (as a person seen as
incorruptible) as a front for the abuses of others (54). Quotes Plato on the idea that
going out in the rain to try unsuccessfully to have others take shelter simply makes you
wet yourself. Better to stay dry in the first place (54).
Utopian Economic System: Raphael suggests that the principle of private property is
an impediment that stands in the way of optimum prosperity and smooth government
(54-55). More objects, saying the lack of opportunity to make wealth would lead to
laziness etc. (56). To counter this, Raphael offers the example of Utopia – an ancient
country whose inhabitants are willing to learn from others (presumably as opposed
One thing noticeable about Utopia’s society is its uniformity and em