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The History of an Idea

Gregory Claeys


A compelling history of a perennially powerful idea: the quest for the ideal society

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We have always dreamed of better societies. Philosophers, poets, reformers, architects and artists have imagined them in intricate detail, from Asia to the Americas, across Europe, Africa and the Arab world. Here, Gregory Claeys explores the origins, evolution and influence of utopian thinking, taking in creation myths and religious archetypes, voyages of discovery and new worlds, revolutions social and technological, model communities and dystopian regimes, science fiction and space travel.

From classical times to the future, he traces the enduring human need to imagine and construct ideal worlds.

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BBC History Magazine

'Well-informed and penetrating'
Irish Catholic

'This excellent survey of the utopian impulse … has one obvious lesson, dreaming of a better world is one thing, putting it into practice, quite another'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 19.8 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Illustrations: 23

Publication date: 9 January 2020

ISBN: 9780500295526

Contents List

The Search for Utopia • The Classical Age • Christian Archetypes • Extra-European Visions of the Ideal Society • Thomas More’s Utopia • Voyages of Discovery to the New World and Beyond • The Age of Defoe and Swift • Revolution and Enlightenment • Ideal Cities: Medieval to Modern • Utopia as Community: From Shakers to Hippies • Socialism, Communism and Anarchism • Rationalism, Technology and Modernity as Utopia • The Emergence of Science Fiction • Varieties of Dystopia: Totalitarianism and After • Utopia, Science Fiction and Film: The Final Frontier • Conclusion: Paradise Lost?

About the Author

Gregory Claeys has been Professor of the History of Political Thought at Royal Holloway since 1992. His many books include Utopia, Thomas Paine and the Pelican book Marx and Marxism.