Literature Study GuidesUtopiaBook 2 Chapter 8 Summary

Utopia | Study Guide

Sir Thomas More

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Utopia | Book 2, Chapter 8 : Of Their Military Discipline | Summary

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Summary

Utopians "detest war as a very brutal thing," but nevertheless both Utopian men and women take part in daily military exercises. They go to war "to defend themselves or their friends from any unjust aggressors." They also go to war to "assist an oppressed nation in shaking off the yoke of tyranny." They do not, however, go to war because they, themselves, have been defrauded. This choice is simply because Utopians don't particularly value goods or treasure so they feel war is unjustified.

Because they dislike violence and feel it is rarely justified, Utopians use other means to win wars. They offer rewards to anyone who will kill the ruler of an enemy nation or set their enemies against one another. They believe these actions are wise because they can end a war "without so much as hazarding one battle to decide it." Utopians are also more than willing to part with their gold to hire mercenary soldiers from other nations. They also pay a higher wage to mercenaries than any other nation. They have no scruples about laying ambushes or traps for the enemy. This choice, of course, saves many Utopian lives while enriching those people who choose to serve the Utopian cause in war.

If Utopia itself is invaded, all able-bodied men are expected to fight; it is an act of cowardice to refuse service. In addition, "They do not hinder those women who are willing to go along with their husbands." In fact, women are encouraged to fight alongside men "in the front of the army."

Analysis

In many ways Utopian philosophy about war would have been directly opposed to that of the English. In particular, Tudors would have disputed the idea that war should be fought, if possible, by tricking enemies into turning against themselves. While Utopian ideas are certainly rational (do whatever it takes to avoid bloodshed), they are in direct contradiction to the British ideals of chivalry. Similarly, the idea that risks should be shifted to paid mercenaries would have been unacceptable to English readers of the time.

The idea that women, as well as men, should prepare for and engage in war is certainly progressive. However, it is unlikely More supported such an idea. It is more likely the suggestion is facetious.

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