David Armitage, 16 November 1995
It can hardly be a coincidence that the historical study of utopias has accelerated as faith in the promises of utopianism has declined. The very idea that utopias, those rose-tinted cities stranded outside time, might have a history is itself a recent discovery, and has largely sprung from assessments of More’s Utopia, the work that revived the ancient genre of the ideal commonwealth for the modern world. More’s work has been heralded as both a harbinger of Communism and as the intellectual first-fruits of the modern bureaucratic state. The corruption and collapse of the one, and the distrust and fear of the other, have made More’s solutions for human depravity seem distant and even actively repugnant in ways that earlier generations of readers could hardly have foreseen. History has reclaimed Utopia and made its vision of a well-regulated present a thing of the past.