Utopia

For thousands of years human beings have dreamt of perfect worlds, worlds free of conflict, hunger and unhappiness. But can these worlds ever exist in reality?

In 1516 Sir Thomas More wrote the first 'Utopia'. He coined the word 'utopia' from the Greek ou-topos meaning 'no place' or 'nowhere'. But this was a pun - the almost identical Greek word eu-topos means a good place. So at the very heart of the word is a vital question: can a perfect world ever be realised?

This site will open up the dreams, ideas and energies behind a selection of historical utopias. It questions the ups and downs of a visionary approach to life, and considers the ways in which utopias from the past might help us think afresh about the world today.

Click on the themes below to explore more about utopias.

Think about these questions when you look at the sources...

  • Is utopia possible?
  • Are utopian ideas meant to be acted on?
  • If not, what other purposes do they serve?

For additional questions about utopia click here

Perfection: Classical Utopias

Explore the origins of utopian ideas in the ideal societies portrayed in classical and Biblical literature.

 

16th century dreams: Thomas More

Learn about Thomas More's idea of utopia by exploring a selection of extracts discussing ideals of agriculture and education, marriage and social hierarchy.

 

Reason, religion or both?

Learn about isolated utopias set on remote islands or even other planets. Explore what makes a society utopian.

 

18th century: Revolution!

Discover how utopian ideals exploded into social and political action and explore the ways in which utopia might be brought about.

 

19th century Earthly Utopias

Discover the nineteenth century attempts made to actually establish utopian communities whose emphasis was on human rights, equality and democracy.

 

18th & 19th Century Methods for change

Explore non-violent methods of bringing about utopian ideals.