Thomas More – Cities of Utopia

In The Utopia or the treaty of the best form of government, Thomas More criticizes certain features of his time.

It is the occasion for him to give a description of the cities, these cities which have according to the title even the best form of government.

It is enough for Thomas More to describe one to give an account of all the others, as he explains it at the beginning of this chapter 1 of the Book 2:

He who knows this city knows them all, for they are all exactly alike, as far as the nature of the place allows. I could therefore describe to you indifferently the first coming; but I will choose preferably the city of Amaurote, because it is the seat of the government and the Senate, which gives it the preeminence on all the others. Moreover, it is the city that I know best, since I lived there for five whole years.

Thomas More, Utopia

The ideal city is surrounded by walls. The streets are perfectly laid out, to facilitate transportation and to fight against the wind.

The residences are open to all, they“let them enter the first come”.

A belt of high and wide walls encloses the city, and, at very close distances, rise towers and forts. The ramparts, on three sides, are surrounded by ditches always dry, but broad and deep, embarrassed of hedges and bushes. The fourth side has to ditch the river itself. The streets and squares are suitably laid out, either for transportation or for shelter against the wind. The buildings are comfortably built; they shine with elegance and cleanliness, and form two continuous rows, following the whole length of the streets, which are twenty feet wide. Behind and between the houses are vast gardens. Each house has a door to the street and a door to the garden. These two doors are easily opened with a light touch, and let the first person in.

Thomas More, The Utopia

Moreover, the “common possession” is the law.

The Utopians apply the principle of the common possession. To annihilate until the idea of the individual and absolute property, they change house every ten years, and draw by lot the one which must fall to them in sharing.

Thomas More, Utopia

If there is common possession, there is nevertheless a certain competition, in the sense that each one does the best he can be compared to the others:

there is emulation between the different districts of the city, which fight over who will have the best cultivated garden.

Thomas More, Utopia

The great architect of these cities is none other than Utopus. Because all was not perfect from the beginning. It took time to reach perfection.

The Utopians attribute to Utopus the general outline of their cities. This great legislator did not have time to complete the constructions and embellishments that he had planned; several generations were needed for that. So he bequeathed to posterity the task of continuing and perfecting his work.

Thomas More, Utopia

General Knowledge: the city