19th century Earthly Utopias

In the 19th century, at a time of massive industrial growth, Robert Owen and Titus Salt, both industrialists and reformers, set up model communities to house the workers at their textile mills.

These experimental communities are often referred to as socialist utopias. Owen's New Lanark, in central Scotland and Salt's Saltaire, in West Yorkshire were self-contained communities built around textile mills. Workers were given a better quality of life than was available elsewhere.

The backdrop to these small-scale social experiments was a growing emphasis on human rights, equality and democracy. This was the time of American Independence and the French Revolution.

Think about these ideas as you look at the extracts:

  • How far is it possible to build utopia in an industrial society?
  • Were Owen and Salt philanthropist reformers or simply good capitalists?
  • What degree of control did Owen and Salt exercise over their communities?

The New Views of Mr Owen (text extract)

Robert Owen


Gardening and cooking



A view of New Lanark


A Song of Saltaire