Thorvald Hansen


New World Utopias, Scandinavian Utopias


Europe was in ferment during the nineteenth century. The American Revolution and the French Revolution, both of which had taken place during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, had brought to the fore new questions as to the status of the individual in society. The emphasis in the one on the equality of all men, and in the other on "Liberty, equality and fraternity," had inspired and given hope to some, but had struck fear into the hearts of others. It was inevitable that this should give rise to reformers, particularly in England and France, reformers who were concerned with the social and economic welfare of the working class. Beginning in 1814, Count Saint Simon, a Frenchman, who was an insistent reformer wrote a number of books with a socialistic bias. This was before the word socialism, which did not come into general use until after 1830, and long before the days of Karl Marx. Meanwhile the Scottish factory owner and philanthropist, Robert Owen, was attracting much interest in Britain by setting an example in using his own plan for a more just social organization of society. In other European countries there were also reformers who were aware of the inequities in the social and economic order under which society was organized. Reform was definitely in the air in early nineteenth century Europe.