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John Rastell Thomas More and the New World Introduction 1While much has been written about the geographical background of Utopia modern critical attention for the most part has been too narrowly focused on the Americas 1 It is all too often forgotten in relation to Utopia that there were in fact at least two New Worlds in the 16th Century not only the Americas but also sub-Saharan Africa and most of Asia which were equally new to Europeans at this time as well I am convinced that the Portuguese voyages of discovery and exploration in the Far East after 1500 are at least as important for understanding Utopia as is the discovery of the Americas after 1492 On the basis of evidence from Mores own works and from other contemporary references I wish to argue that More was really far more interested in The East than in the Americas and that India and Ceylon Taprabone in particular served as prototypes for the fictional geography of Utopia 2While most of the details of Thomas Mores description of Utopian society in Utopia have Classical or Mediaeval prototypes it is clear that he was just as profoundly influenced by the contemporary Portuguese and Spanish voyages of discovery Hythloday the fictional narrator of Book II of Utopia was Portuguese and supposedly went on Amerigo Vespuccis Fourth Portuguese Voyage and was left behind in what is now Brazil though More does not mention it by name Somehow from there he managed to get to the Portuguese possessions in India and Ceylon Taprabone from where he sailed back to Europe In between he spent five years in Utopia More is delightfully vague about the location of Utopia Most scholars have tried to look for models in Latin America but have come away disappointed by the few parallels I think a much stronger case can be made for locating Utopia in the Far East Only in the Orient did the
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