About Thomas More

Thomas More was the statesman of wisdom and humor who served as Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII before he was executed for defending the ancient liberties of his country and for refusing to compromise his conscience. Coming from humble roots, Thomas More achieved spectacular professional success, and he attributed that success to the depth and excellence of the education that he received. A principled politician known as “the best friend the poor ever had” and dedicated to God and His laws, he was an intellectual with a great sense of humor; he was the first in history known to publish a defense for free speech; he was among the first to use the word “integrity” in the English language, and although he worked for a monarch, he showed the superiority of collegial, parliamentary government based on the people’s consent. More was a dedicated family man who studied throughout his life and carefully attended to his children’s education. He was also a shrewd professional and entrepreneur. A master of diplomatic speech, More and his style of irony and wit continue to be recognized as rhetorically effective. In brief, More has been known, even in his own lifetime, as “a man for all seasons.”

Interest in Thomas More has never been greater than in our own times. Beginning with his canonization in 1935 on the eve of World War II, and continuing with the release of the Academy Award-winning film A Man for All Seasons in 1966, Thomas More has consistently been presented as a champion of truth and conscience in times plagued both by tyranny and by politicians without principles. So great is More’s appeal in diverse circles that he was added to the Anglican Calendar of Saints in 1980, voted “Lawyer of the Millennium” in 1999 by the Law Society of Great Britain, and proclaimed “Patron of Statesmen” on October 31, 2000 by John Paul II in response to an international petition signed by hundreds of world leaders and politicians of widely different backgrounds. As the first major thinker and writer of the English Renaissance, More’s works and influence also attract considerable scholarly interest, as the publication (1997) of his complete works by Yale University Press indicates.