Utopian Literature
Utopia Montage

What is a Utopia?
Development of Utopian Fiction
Examples of Utopian Literature
 - B.C. to 16th Century
17th to 18th Century
19th Century
Early 20th Century
Mid 20th Century
Late 20th Century
Alphabetical List
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Luke Mastin

17th to 18th Century

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Mundus Alter et Idem by Joseph Hall (England, 1607) StarStar UtopiaDystopia     Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Sometimes translated from the original Latin as "An Old World and a New" or "Another World and Yet the Same", and later republished in English as “The Discovery of a New World”, Bishop Hall’s satirical story was an early dystopia and a veiled criticism of contemporary England the Catholic Church. The narrator, Mercurius Britannicus, sails on the ship Fantasia through the southern seas, visiting the lands of Crapulia, Viraginia, Moronia and Lavernia (populated by gluttons, nags, fools and thieves respectively). Moronia in particular parodies many Catholic customs.

Christianopolis by Johann Valentin Andreae (Germany, 1619) StarStar Utopia     Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
As told by the survivor of a shipwreck, Christianoplis is the capital city of a distant island, where the citizens use no money or own no property; and are thus all on an equal basis economically and socially. Houses, furniture, food, and clothing are provided by the state without any discrimination, children of school age are reared by the community, and everyone shares equally in work in the fields and in the towns (depending on their aptitudes) as well as in the home.

Civitas Solis (City of the Sun) by Tommaso Campanella (Italy, 1623) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
The island of Taprobane is an idyllic place where property is communal and there is no money. Labour is equally shared, resulting in a four-hour working day (upping the ante from More). On Taprobane, slavery has been abolished, but women are considered a community resource, with scientific control of breeding. Science education is stressed above all else, and the rulers are men of superior intelligence, similar to Plato’s philosopher-kings.

The New Atlantis by Sir Francis Bacon (England, 1624) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
On Bacon’s putative Pacific island, the common good is sought through learning and justice, especially though scientific knowledge. Unusually for utopias of the time, a love of finery and jewellery is encouraged. The book was unfortunately unfinished and Bacon’s ideas on society and government are not detailed.

The Commonwealth of Oceana by James Harrington (England, 1656) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Oceana is an idealized England, described in great detail in an attempt to influence the government of Cromwell. Among his ideas are limits of the holding of land, rules for the distribution of land, and the rotation of one third of the ruling senate by ballot each year, so that the same individuals do not hold onto power for too long.

The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish (England, 1666) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
The only known work of utopian fiction by a 17th Century woman, Blazing World is a fanciful depiction of a satirical, utopian kingdom in another world (complete with different stars in the sky), which can be reached via the North Pole. A young woman from our world is shipwrecked on the Blazing World where she is made Empress and uses her power to ensure that it is free of war, religious division and unfair sexual discrimination.

The History of the Sevarambians by Denis Veiras (France, 1675) StarStar Utopia     Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Set in Australasia, Veiras’ novel is a rollicking adventure story complete with a shipwreck, romantic tales, religious fraud, magical talismans and supernatural animals. The people of Sevarambia live in perfect equality, with no private property and no taxes (since everybody works for the common good), and use an artificial synthetic language similar to modern Esperanto.

The Adventures of Telemachus by François Fénelon (France, 1699) StarStar UtopiaDystopia     Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Recounting the travels of Telemachus (son of Odysseus) and his wise tutor Mentor, Fénelon fills out a gap in Homer’s “Odyssey” while simultaneously putting forth his own agenda on reform and human rights. Telemachus embarks on a series of adventures and encounters with extraordinary men which provide Mentor with opportunities to denounce war, luxury, imperialism, selfishness and the mercantile system, and to proclaim the brotherhood of man, the constitutional monarchy and the necessity of altruism.

The New Atalantis by Delarivier Manley (England, 1709) Star Dystopia     Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
A controversial but immensely popular satire by the female friend and literary rival to Jonathan Swift. The underlying conceit revolves around the return to earth of the goddess of Justice, Astrea, to gather information about private and public behaviour on the island of Atalantis in the Mediterranean. But the all too transparent result is a scandalous narrative of the private lives of prominent English Whig politicians and the authors of the 1688 Revolution, which resulted in Manley’s arrest and trial.

The Voyages and Adventures of Jacques Massé by Simon Tyssot de Patot (France, 1714) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
The eponymous hero discovers a large flat island in the South Seas, where huge living fossil birds still roam and strange flora abounds. Each province of the kingdom of Bustrol is ruled by a judge who represents twenty-two families before the king, and a priest who is in charge of education and religion, teaching humility and morals. Tyssot de Patot also produced “The Life, Adventures & Trip To Greenland of the Re. Father Pierre de Mesange” in 1720, the first of many Hollow Earth utopias written in the period.

The Fable of the Bees by Bernard Mandeville (England, 1714) Star Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Subtitled “Private Vices, Publick Benefits”, this works consists of a poem and an extensive prose commentary. In it, de Mandeville compares society to a bee hive where the behaviour of the bees, although individually selfish, aggregates to a kind of common good. His analogy is with the increasingly free enterprise system in existence in England in his day.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (England, 1726) StarStar UtopiaDystopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Swift’s most famous satirical work, the book is actually in four parts, only the first of which deals with the traveller Gulliver being shipwrecked and imprisoned in Lilliput, a land of tiny but aggressive people, which Swift uses to satirize the court of King George I. He is then stranded in Brobdingnag, among a people as giant as the Lilliputians were small, where he tries to justify European society to his captors. Next, he is rescued by the flying island of Laputa, where the inhabitants devote themselves to music and mathematics but are unable to use these for any practical ends. Finally, he is marooned in the land the Houyhnhnms, a race of graceful and intelligent horses, who rule over a lesser species of Yahoos (deformed and bestial humans). Gulliver concludes that there is no such thing as an ideal form of government - each has its pros and cons - but that his own English model is far from perfect itself.

Insel Felsenburg by Johann Gottfried Schnabel (Germany, 1731) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Shipwrecked in the South Atlantic, Albertus Julius and a woman, Concordia, are the sole survivors. They marry and have 300 children, which Julius rules over in a harmonious but strongly patriarchal state. The story combines exciting adventures, erotic experiences, and a description of a God-fearing ideal state, which is portrayed as a refuge from corrupt Europe.

Niels Klim’s Journey Under the Ground by Ludvig Holberg (Norway, 1741) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Niels, a student, falls into a huge cave, only to find himself floating in space, orbiting a planet called Nazar which revolves around a subterranean sun. During his epic adventures on this planet, he encounters a host of fantastical beings, including sentient and contemplative trees, intelligent apes preoccupied with fashion and change, a land whose inhabitants don’t speak out of their mouths, as well as neighbouring countries of birds locked in an eternal war, and a land where string basses talk musically to one another. In the process, he satirizes his own country and pokes fun at such cultural and social topics as morality, science, sexual equality, religion, governments and philosophy.

Code de la Nature by Étienne-Gabriel Morelly (France, 1755) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
A more formal exposition of the ideas first introduced in his earlier poem “Basiliade”, Morelly’s “Code de la Nature” describes the abolition of property, trade, politics, marriage, privilege and law, indeed of everything that stands in the way of individual liberty and a life lived in harmony with nature. His assessment of private property as the root of all evil is often seen as an early forerunner of socialist and communist thought.

Candide by Voltaire (France, 1759) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Subtitled “L’Optimisme” (often rendered in English as “All for the Best”), this is a satirical novel which aims to parody Leibniz’s assertion that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”. The main character Candide stumbles upon a secluded and idyllic city in South America called El Dorado, where the streets are paved with gold and precious stones, and where poverty is non-existent. The city has no organized government or religion, and crime, courts and prisons are unknown, and yet everyone lives in harmony and equality. Candide compares the city’s advanced educational system, beautiful architecture and peaceful and cultured way of life with the rapacious and sordid Europe he comes from.

L’An 2440 (The Year 2440) by Louis-Sébastien Mercier (France, 1771) StarStar Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Subtitled “Rêve s’il en fut jamais” (“A dream if ever there was one”), this work describes a man’s dream of a utopian future after a discussion of the injustices of contemporary Paris life. In 2440, Paris has reorganized its public spaces, its justice system and its impractical fashions, and there is no longer a need for religion, armies, foreign trade, slavery, taxes, prostitutes and beggars. Coffee, tea and tobacco are also conspicuously absent, as are dancing masters and pastry chefs.

Supplement to Bougainville’s “Voyage” by Denis Diderot (France, 1772) Star Utopia    Amazon US Amazon Canada Amazon UK
Diderot’s book makes a case for the simple, natural ways of a South Sea Island culture as reported by Bougainville, a French explorer, and the European lifestyle is discredited in comparison. Communal property and complete sexual freedom are the mainstays of their philosophy, although few details of government, law and the economy are given.


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What is a Utopia? | Development of Utopian Fiction | Examples of Utopian Literature | B.C. to 16th Century | 17th to 18th Century | 19th Century | Early 20th Century | Mid 20th Century | Late 20th Century | Alphabetical List
© 2008 Luke Mastin