The Dacre Lecture: ‘Thomas More’s Utopia and virtue politics’

The Dacre Lecture

‘Thomas More’s Utopia and virtue politics’

Professor James Hankins (Harvard)

12 May 2023, at 5.00 pm
The Old Library, All Souls College


Meritocracy is usually taken to be a modern concept, but political meritocracy—the belief that government can be improved by ‘elevating the worthy’, i.e. well-educated persons of good character and successful experience in office—is found in many historical societies from imperial China to the Roman republic. This lecture will present the meritocratic thought of the little-known humanist Francesco Patrizi of Siena, the principal theorist of Renaissance virtue politics, and use his De institutione reipublicae (1471) to show that Thomas More's Utopia (1516) should be situated within this rich tradition of political philosophy.

Title woodcut for the 1516 edition of Utopia written by Thomas More.