Thomas More

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

More, Thomas


Born Feb. 7, 1478, in London; died there July 6, 1535. English humanist, statesman, and writer; founder of Utopian socialism. Son of a judge.

From 1492 to 1494, More studied at Oxford University; he joined a circle known as the Oxford reformers, whose members included J. Colet, T. Linacre, and W. Grocyn. More studied English common law at Lincoln’s Inn from 1496 to 1501. At the end of the 1490’s he met Erasmus of Rotterdam, who became one of his closest friends. Erasmus’ Praise of Folly was written in More’s home and dedicated to him. In 1504, More became a representative of the London merchant class in Parliament. Because he expressed his opposition to Henry VII’s arbitrary tax policy, he fell into disgrace. With the accession of Henry VIII to the throne in 1509, he resumed his political career, becoming undersheriff of London in 1510 and a member of the king’s council in 1518. He was chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1525 to 1529, and chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532.

More responded negatively to the Lutheran Reformation, which he considered a threat to Christian unity. A Catholic and, consequently, a supporter of the supreme authority of the pope, he refused to swear allegiance to the king as the supreme head of the English church. For this he was charged with treason, imprisoned in the Tower of London (1534), and executed. In 1886 he was beatified by the Catholic Church, and in 1935, canonized.

More’s numerous anti-Protestant polemical treatises and meditations on religious themes (The Four Last Things, Supplication of Souls, Apology, and Dialogue Concerning Heresies, for example) influenced the art of English rhetoric (the sermons of A. Marvell and J. Donne), as well as the development of J. Swift’s style. He translated from Latin into English a biography of G. Pico della Mirandola (1510), whose personality and tragic fate he considered instructive for church reformers. His unfinished History of King Richard III (1531), one of the best works in English Renaissance prose, was a secondary source for Shakespeare’s drama.

More is especially famous for the dialogue Utopia (1516; Russian translation, 1789), which describes the ideal society on the imaginary island of Utopia. (The word “utopia,” from the Greek meaning “nowhere” or “nonexistent place,” was coined by More and subsequently entered English usage.) He was the first to describe a society in which private property (even personal property) has been abolished, equality of consumption has been introduced (as in the early Christian communes), and production and the way of life have been socialized. In Utopia labor is required of all citizens, distribution is based on need, and there is a six-hour workday. Criminals do the heaviest work. The political system of Utopia is based on the principles of election and seniority. The family, a cell for the communist way of life, is organized more as a productive unit than as a kinship unit. An opponent of popular movements, which he associated with anarchy and destruction, More did not believe that the ideal society would be achieved through revolution. Utopia, which was written in Latin for humanist scholars and enlightened monarchs, was translated into other European languages in the mid-16th century. It greatly influenced reformers of subsequent centuries, especially Morelly, G. Babeuf, Saint-Simon, C. Fourier, E. Cabet, and other representatives of Utopian socialism.


Complete Works. New Haven-London, 1963—.
The Correspondence. Edited by E. F. Rogers. Princeton, N. J., 1947.


Tarle, E. V. Obshchestvennye vozzreniia T. Mora v sviazi s ekonomicheskim sostoianiem Anglii ego vremeni. St. Petersburg, 1901.
Kautsky, K. T. Mor i ego utopiia. Moscow, 1924. (Translated from German.)
Alekseev, M. P. Slavianskie istochniki “Utopii” T. Mora. Moscow, 1955.
Bridgett, T. E. Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More. Ann Arbor-London, 1962.
Chambers, R. W. T. More. London, 1963.
Campbell, W. E. More’s Utopia and His Social Teaching. London, 1930.
Donner, H. W. Introduction to Utopia. Uppsala, 1945.
Surtz, E. L. The Praise of Wisdom. Chicago, 1957.
Sullivan, F., and M. P. Sullivan. Moreana, 1478–1945. Kansas City, 1946.
Sullivan, F. Sir T. More: A First Bibliographical Notebook. Los Angeles, 1953.
Johnson, R. S. More’s Utopia: Ideal and Illusion. New Haven-London, 1969.
St. Thomas More, Action and Contemplation: Proceedings of the Symposium. New Haven-London, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(27) Who but a liberal politician could turn St. Thomas More into a policy wonk?
St. Thomas More has a well-established reputation as the graceful author of morally charged works such as Utopia (2) and his unfinished The History of King Richard III.
Nonetheless, the system gave concrete form to what St. Thomas More -would refer to at his trial as the "laws of God and his Holy Church" (22) and England's integration into a legal apparatus transcending English common law.
(31) In the spring of 1521, St. Thomas More was appointed to edit the book.
(42) Nonetheless, some have speculated that it reflected themes dear to St. Thomas More, (43) who was at the time a member of the King's court as Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer but was also serving as a supernumerary king's secretary to both Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey.
Few persons bring as much to the table as Clarence Miller; he has translated and edited several volumes in the Yale edition of The Complete Works of St. Thomas More; he served as executive editor of the series, following Richard C.
(23.) I have preferred to quote from the texts of the English poems found in St. Thomas More, The History of King Richard III and Selections from the English and Latin Poems, ed.
Requiem Mass to be offered on Monday, May 21 in St. Thomas More's R.C.
Funeral to be held at St. Thomas More's Church on Friday, September 2 at 10.30am followed by cremation in St.
Requiem Mass to take place at St. Thomas More's R.C.
Funeral service to be held at St. Thomas More's R.C.
Requiem Mass in St. Thomas More's RC Church, on Monday, September 21, at 10.30a.m.