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Utopia Britannica

British Utopian Experiments 1325 - 1945

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Utopia has a chequered history amongst historians. Some would argue that the good place that is no-place has no 'real' history and that its rightful place is in the study of literature. Others have ridiculed utopians and tried to consign them to the footnotes of history. But the utopian tendency has an uncanny resilience - trying to make the world a better place would seem to be a basic human instinct and far from being marginal to our history it has played at times a central and pivotal role.

Utopia Britannica began life as a history of intentional communities in the British Isles, what were called communes in the 1960s & ‘70s. As I set off on my journey down the communal memory lane with my baggage of preconceptions I thought I was clearly bound for the footnotes of history, but as I travelled through both geography and time, engaged in the research, I found myself in places that I never knew existed, accompanied by a cast of characters that ranged from the truely strange & eccentric, right through the corridors of power to the dizzy heights of fame & fortune.

What slowly emerged was a Utopian landscape stretched to the farthest corners of our country and whose influences are embedded so deep into our national culture as to be virtually invisible.I have spent alot of time reading the footnotes of other history books piecing together a jigsaw map of UtopiaBritannica, and now when I travel I move through another country; a countryof the imagination dreamt into existence by generations of utopian experimenters who refused to accept that there wasn’t a better place to be than the one that they found themselves in.

Chris Coates 4.6.2001

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Site last updated 3.1.2007