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What are two ways in which Utopian society is different from 16th century England?

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haaggus | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 15, 2012 at 7:24 AM via web

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What are two ways in which Utopian society is different from 16th century England?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:21 PM (Answer #1)

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One area in which Utopia is different than sixteenth-century England is the absence of religious strife among the Utopians. In fact, religious tolerance is prescribed by law, and though there are several different sects in Utopia, they are not allowed to engage in arguments over doctrinal matters in the interest of maintaining civil society. All Utopians worship a deity known as Mithra, but they do not fight about how to do so. As for the clergy, they are elected by the people and are not corrupt or debased. Religious toleration, More says, was one of the founding principles of Utopia:

After...[establishing government] Utopus [the founder of Utopia]...made a law that every man might be of what religion he pleased, and might endeavor to draw others to it...by amicable and modest ways, but without bitterness against those of other opinions, but that he ought to use no other force than...persuasion...

When More published his book, the Protestant Reformation had yet to occur on the continent, and Henry VIII was still a decade away from divorcing Catherine of Aragon. But religious controversies were almost a constant in western Europe, with the Church pursuing heretical sects and corrupt clergy on the continent and in England failing to live up to their pastoral mission. But More's comments on religious tolerance and the lack of religious debate seem prescient just years ahead of the traumatic events of the Reformation, which would see More himself beheaded in the Tower of London.

In Utopia, the people have very few class distinctions. The people all wear simple clothing, have families of roughly the same size, and work six hours daily. Much of the rest of their time is spent in cultivating their minds through reading, attending lectures, or other intellectual pursuits. People also have roughly the same amount of property, minimizing greed and the existence of social classes in Utopian society.

This was obviously very different than in Tudor England, in which class distinctions were growing even more defined. Most people spent their entire lives toiling on land that they rented, and even those who owned a small amount land could expect to eke out a meager existence at best for themselves and their families. Famines sometimes wiped out large swaths of the population. Only the wealthiest Englishmen would have had free time, and certainly very few received a proper education. 

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