In this illuminating lecture, John Guy addresses points the way to a fuller and deeper understanding of Utopia and its enigmatic author
In 1516, a classic of western literature was first published (in Latin) that gave its name to an entire literary and philosophical genre. A work of singular imagination and disruptive energy, Utopia conjures up for many, the image of an ideal society and one it might seem More himself advocated as an alternative to the war-stricken, fiercely competitive, relentlessly acquisitive society of his own era. But did More really believe that Utopia is utopia or ‘The Best State of a Commonwealth’ (as his original title seems to imply)?
Who was Thomas More and what does his most famous book actually say? Why did he write it and who was it for, and how far does an understanding of the key political and social debates of his own time alter our appreciation of Utopia’s significance for his contemporaries? How different in form, style, purpose and intent was More’s original text to Ralph Robinson’s colloquial and reassuringly uncomplicated English translation, first published in 1551, the mass market version still most commonly read today?
Specialising in the Tudor period, John Guy is recognised as one of Britain's most eminent historians. He combines scholarly expertise with exceptional storytelling, that truly brings history to life. His new book Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years follows previous best sellers A Daughter's Love: Thomas and Margaret More, Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim: A 900-Year-Old Story Retold, The Children of Henry VIII, and My Heart is My Own: the Life of Mary Queen of Scots (which won the Whitbread Biography Award). He appears regularly on BBC radio and has presented several documentaries for BBC2 and BBC Four and he writes for national newspapers and magazines and is a Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge.
In association with UTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility at Somerset House
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