e Optimo Republicae Statu deque Nova Insula Utopia (translated On the Best State of a Republic and on the New Island of Utopia) or more simply Utopia is a 1516 book by Sir (Saint) Thomas More.
The book, written in Latin, is a frame narrative primarily depicting a fictional island society and its religious, social and political customs. The name of the place is derived from the Greek words οὐ u ("not") and τόπος tópos ("place"), with the topographical suffix -εία eía, hence Οὐτοπεία outopeía (Latinized as Utopia), “no-place land.” It also contains a pun, however, because “Utopia” could also be the Latinization of Εὐτοπεία eutopeía, “good-place land,” which uses the Greek prefix ευ eu, “good,” instead of οὐ. One interpretation holds that this suggests that while Utopia might be some sort of perfected society, it is ultimately unreachable. Despite modern connotations of the word "utopia," it is widely accepted that the society More describes in this work was not actually his own "perfect society." Rather he wished to use the contrast between the imaginary land's unusual political ideas and the chaotic politics of his own day as a platform from which to discuss social issues in Europe.
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About the Author
More coined the word "utopia" – a name he gave to the ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in Utopia, published in 1516. He opposed the king's separation from the Catholic Church and refused to accept the king as Supreme Head of the Church of England, a status the king had been given by a compliant parliament through the Act of Supremacy of 1534. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his refusal to take the oath required by the First Succession Act, because the act disparaged the power of the Pope and Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In 1535, he was tried for treason, convicted on perjured testimony, and beheaded.
More's reputation has always been very high. Intellectual and statesmen across Europe were stunned by his execution. Erasmus saluted More as one "whose soul was more pure than any snow." Two centuries after the execution Jonathan Swift said he was "the person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced," and Samuel Johnson agreed. Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper said in 1977 that More was "the first great Englishman whom we feel that we know, the most saintly of humanists, the most human of saints, the universal man of our cool northern renaissance." The Catholic Church proclaimed him a saint in 1935.
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