Home > Study Materials > Francis Bacon's Alternative to More's Utopia Curriculum Unit

Francis Bacon's Alternative to More's Utopia Curriculum Unit

© CTMS

 

Contents

 

I. Thomas More's Utopia vs. Francis Bacon's New Atlantis

II. Study Questions

III. Study Outline - Bacon's New Atlantis

 

 

I. Thomas More's Utopia vs. Francis Bacon's New Atlantis

In his New Atlantis, Bacon presents the first model society based on empirical science and on Machiavelli's critique of classical utopias. As such, he does not present a utopia (“no place”) as More did, but Bacon sets forth what he considers to be a realizable city of peace and prosperity founded on a scientifically inductive study of nature and of “humanity.”

To appreciate the issues at stake in the difference between Thomas More’s Utopia and Bacon’s New Atlantis, you might consider books three and four of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as well as Swift’s “Battle of the Books.” In this battle between the “ancients” and the “moderns,” Swift sides with Thomas More while satirizing such enterprises as Bacon’s New Atlantis in the voyage to Laputa and in the “pure reason” of the Houyhnhnms. In book three, Swift also praises More as one of the six great defenders of freedom of all time.

What is the difference between an “ancient” utopia and a “modern” model of society? To help reflection on this issue, see the questions that follow as well as CTMS Study Questions on Utopia and Gulliver’s Travels. A download of the text of the New Atlantis, as well as PDF versions of the questions and outline below are available on the Downloads page.

 

II. Study Questions

Introduction (Pages 1-4)

1. Upon what is our attention focused as we and the travelers are introduced to Bensalem?

2. What contrast is presented between paragraph one and the six that follow? What is the significance of Bensalem’s name (which is Hebrew for “son of peace”)?

 

Part 1: The Strangers’ House and the History of Bensalem (Pages 5-21)

1. What characterizes the Strangers’ House and how do the European strangers respond to it? What advices does the European leader give to his fellow travelers?

2. What are the most striking attributes of the Governor of the Strangers’ House?

3. What is the first question asked by the strangers and how does the Governor receive that question?

4. What is your reaction to the Governor’s answer? What do you find most surprising about this account?

5. What is the strangers’ second question and why do you think the Governor says they “did well to ask pardon” for phrasing that question as they did?

6. Given the Governor’s answer, what lessons does he want to impart about Bensalem? Why would he volunteer to given the information in his “digression” (19-20)?

7. How do the strangers react to the Governor’s history?

8. Why do you think the Governor does not let the strangers kiss his tippet (21), yet the Father of Salomon’s House does (31)?

 

Part 2: Marriage Laws and Customs in Bensalem (Pages 21-29)

1. What effect is achieved by having the narrator and Joabin describe Bensalem’s marriage laws and customs?

2. What does this society seem to value most highly, as seen in these laws and customs? How does it compare and contrast with the Utopian practices?

 

Part 3: On the House of Salomon (Pages 29-43)

1. What distinguishes this Father of the House of Salomon?

2. What is the subject of his private conference with the narrator?

3. What does this account reveal about life in Bensalem?

 

Overall

1. What is most valued in Bensalem by the rulers, the priests, and the people?

 

Compare and Contrast

1. How does New Atlantis differ from More’s Utopia? How do the objectives of each differ?

2. Would you prefer to live in Bensalem or in Utopia? Why?

3. In book three of Gulliver’s Travels, what is Swift satirizing about Bacon’s New Atlantis?

 

 

III. Study Outline - Bacon's New Atlantis

Introduction — 4 Pages

Approaching New Atlantis

Message delivered

Official questions

Concerns and an oath

1

2

3

4

 

Part 1: Strangers' House & History of Bensalem ("Son of Peace") — 16 Pages

Strangers’ House

Narrator calls for reform

The governor/priest visits

How Christianity came to Bensalem

The Ark (1570 years ago)

Bartholomew’s Letter

How they know without being known

Brief history:

Age of Atlantis (3000 years ago)

Great Atlantis destroyed

King Solamona (1900 years ago)

New laws

Salomon’s House

Two voyages every twelve years

The strangers are eager to stay

5

7

8

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

 

Part 2: Marriage Laws and Customs in Bensalem — 8 Pages

Feast of the Family

The Governor’s role

The Tirsan and his Son of the Vine

King’s Charter and grapes of gold

Dinner celebration

Blessing of each child

Joabin, a Jewish merchant

Marriage customs and laws

Irrationality of European ways

Superiority of Bensalem to Europe

Superiority of Bensalem to Utopians

21

22

22

23

24

25

26

26

27

28

29

 

Part 3: House of Salomon — 13 Pages (Plus Pages 10-11, 19-21)

Father of Salomon’s House visits

Private conference with the strangers

Salomon’s Foundation explained

1. The end

2. Preparations and Instruments

Lower, Upper, Middle Regions

Works of hermits

Works for health

Poisons; biological experiments

Brew-houses, kitchens, wineries

Medicine dispensaries; furnaces

Perspective-houses

Sound-houses

Perfume and engine houses

Math and deceit houses

3. Employments and Functions

4. Ordinances and Rites

29

31

31

31

32

32

32

33

34

35

36

36

37

38

39

39

40

 

Appended List of Salomon House's "Wonderful Works"

The Wonderful Works of Nature

42