Utopia: Novel Summary: Book II – Geographical features of Utopia and agriculture

Book II opens with a description of the physical characteristics of Utopia. It is a crescent-shaped island, five hundred miles long by two hundred miles across. A harbor enclosed by the points of the crescent is easily defended because of its dangerous rocks and shallows; ships need a Utopian guide to lead them safely into the harbor. The island was originally joined to the mainland, but Utopus, the man who conquered it and gave it its name and form of government, dug a channel and separated it.
There are fifty-four cities on the island, all identical to each other. Once a year, each city sends three senators to the capital city, Amaurot, to present any of the citizens concerns at an assembly. The populace is divided into families, each with at least forty people in it, and two slaves. Each family is headed by a master and mistress, and for every thirty families there is a magistrate. Each year, twenty people from each family move from the country to the town after staying for two years in the country, and twenty people move from the town to the country. This way, everyone learns about agriculture, and yet no one has to do hard agricultural work for too long unless they especially wish to.
The farming methods are largely the same as would be practiced in sixteenth-century England, with two exceptions. First, chickens are hatched in incubators, so that they see the person who feeds them as their mother and will follow them about. Second, the Utopians use oxen rather than horses for farm work, as they have more stamina and are not subject to as many diseases. They produce enough food for their own needs and more, giving the surplus to neighboring countries. As Utopians do not use money, when they need food, they simply collect it.
Thomas More describes the geographical features of Utopia in some detail. The effect is to add to the credibility of his story. In doing this, he goes beyond the source that most influenced Utopia, Platos Republic, which omits geographical information. Thomas More also differs from Plato in laying emphasis on the family as the basic unit of his ideal society (Plato restricted male-female relationships to the function of reproduction, and children were raised communally, so the family was redundant).