In the nearly-500 years since its publication, Thomas More’s Utopia has influenced everything from the thinking of Gandhi to the tech giants of Silicon Valley, writes Tom Hodgkinson.
An English lawyer, statesman, writer and saint, Thomas More was a strange character. Born in 1478, he was progressive in some ways (he educated his daughters to a very high level) while also clinging to archaic customs (he wore hair shirts). An establishment figure, he was also an enemy of the Protestant Reformation and is known today as a Catholic martyr, having been beheaded by King Henry VIII.
Today, though, we may know More best for his invention of a word – and for his development of an idea that would be exported around the world. This concept would shape books, philosophies and political movements as varied as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Mahatma Gandhi’s doctrine of passive resistance and the founding of the state of Pennsylvania.