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Works of Sir Thomas More

Utopians farming; from a 1730 French translation of 'Utopia'

Excerpt from Utopia, Book 2.

[UTOPIAN AGRICULTURE]

      They have built farm-houses over the whole country, which are well contrived and furnished with every necessary. Inhabitants for them are sent in rotation from the cities. No family in the country hath fewer than forty men and women in it, beside two slaves. A master and mistress preside over every family, and over thirty families a magistrate. Every year twenty of the family return to town after having been two years in the country, and in their place other twenty are sent to learn country business of those who have been there only one year, and must, in their turn, teach the next comers. Thus, those who live on the farms are never ignorant of agriculture, and commit no fatal errors, such as causing a scarcity of corn.

Engraving of Utopia from a 1730 French edition.       But, notwithstanding these yearly changes, to prevent any from being compelled against inclination to follow that hard course of life too long, many of them take such pleasure in it, that they ask leave to continue therein many years. These husbandmen till the ground, breed cattle, hew wood, and send it to the towns by land or water, as is most convenient. They breed an infinity of chickens in a very curious manner. They are not hatched by hens, but a vast number of eggs are hatched together by means of an equable artificial warmth; and no sooner do the young quit the shell, than they consider their feeder as their dam, and follow man as other chickens do the hen.

      They breed few horses, but those they have are high-mettled, and employed in exercising their youth in horsemanship. In the cart and plough they use oxen. For, though their horses be stronger, they find their oxen more patient of labour, subject to fewer disorders, and maintained at less charge and trouble; and when no longer fit for labour, they are good meat at last.

      They sow no more corn than they want for their bread, for they drink wine, cider, or perry, and often water, sometimes boiled with honey or liquorice, in which they abound. And though they know exactly how much corn every city and the tract belonging to it require, they sow much more, and breed more cattle than are necessary for their consumption, giving the overplus to their neighbours. When they want any thing in the country which it doth not produce, they fetch it from the city without carrying any thing in exchange, and the city magistrates take care to see them supplied. At harvest time, the country magistrates inform those in the city how many reapers they want, which number being supplied, they commonly dispatch the work in a day.






Cayley, Arthur, the Younger, ed. Memoirs of Sir Thomas More, &c. Vol II.
London: Cadell and Davis, 1808. 57-59.




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