Three Hundred Years Hence by Mary Griffith (USA, 1836)
The first utopian novel by an American woman, and the first to be set in a different time rather than a remote and inaccessible place. The novel's hero wakes after a long, deep sleep to a future utopian society and a vastly improved social order in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
Equality: A History of Lithconia by James Reynolds (USA, 1837)
Originally published as an 8-part article in 1802, Equality is arguably the first American utopia. It imagines a perfect society called Lithconia, which was founded on the principle of complete equality for all, a communally-organized producers' republic where individual human nature could flourish and society could achieve perfection.
Le Voyage en Icarie (Travels in Icaria) by Étienne Cabet (France, 1840)
This influential novel depicts an ideal society in which an elected government controls all economic and social activity in a communitarian social movement which he gave the name “communisme”. However, his model did allow a role for the Christian religion and the family unit.
The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (England, 1870)
This is an early example of the science fiction genre in which a wealthy independent traveller accidentally discovers an advanced, angel-like race called the Vril-ya living in subterranean caverns. The Vril-ya are able to control, by will-power or by means of a special staff, a latent (and potentially awesomely powerful) source of energy, known as ‘Vril’, to heal, change or destroy things at will. The Vril-ya are a peaceful, vegetarian, mystical society, without envy, poverty, conflict or hard work. The women are taller and grander than the men and control everything concerned with reproduction of the species. However, lurking in the darkness is a parallel, unevolved race of primitive savages, and it becomes clear that the Vril-ya may not always be able to continue their idyllic way of life.
Erewhon by Samuel Butler (England, 1872)
Erewhon (an anagram of 'nowhere', the literal translation of 'utopia') is a remote kingdom, not on any map, which the narrator claims to have discovered in his travels. In many respects, life there is not dissimilar to contemporary Western civilization - there is a monarchy, lawyers, judges, prisons, money, rich and poor - and at first sight the inhabitants appear healthy and contented. However, it soon becomes apparent that duplicity is rife, and there are in actual fact two conflicting religions, two banking systems, etc. Illness is treated as a crime and criminal behaviour treated with sympathy. Their once sophisticated industrial know-how has been deliberately abandoned in favour of very basic machinery. As it becomes clear that their bizarre rule are just exaggerations of common Western practices, the book becomes a dystopia of biting satire against contemporary mores.
The Begum's Fortune by Jules Verne (France, 1879)
In Verne's novel, based on a manuscript by the exiled Corsican revolutionary Paschal Grousset, two men inherit fabulous wealth from an Indian Begum. One, a Frenchman, uses his inheritance to build a utopian model city with public health as its main concern. The other, a German, uses his share to build a very different utopia, one devoted to ever more powerful and destructive weapons, with all the pollution and environmental destruction that comes with it.
Mizora: World of Women by Mary E. Bradley Lane (USA, 1881)
Subtitled “A Prophesy”, this is the first feminist utopian novel. Lost near the North Pole, a Russian noblewoman discovers an all-women utopia at the centre of the earth, a haven of music, peace, universal education and beneficial advanced technology.
The Great Romance by Henry Honor (AKA "The Inhabitant") (New Zealand, 1881)
This short novel was a strong influence on Bellamy's Looking Backward, with which it shares several elements. Waking from suspended animation in 2143, the protagonist finds that the development of telepathy has led to a greatly improved, and more moral, society.
The Diothas by John Macnie (USA, 1883)
First published under the pseudonym Ismar Thiusen, The Diothas imagines New York City 7,700 years in the future, in the 96th Century (the book is appropriately subtitled "A Far Look Ahead"). The book predicts many technological developments that have already come to pass just 120 years later. Macnie's future is progressive, egalitarian and socialistic in nature, although it still includes some capitalistic notions and the equality does not extend to all aspects of life.
After London by Richard Jefferies (England, 1885)
In this early dystopia subtitled “Wild England”, Jefferies depicts a future England which has relapsed into barbarism with few outposts of civilization remaining. London lies deep under poisonous swamps and much of southern England under a large lake, and the few settlements around it are ruled by petty tyrants and their corrupt courts.
A Crystal Age by W. H. Hudson (England, 1887)
A young man is transported to a future where men live in peace and harmony, both with themselves and with nature. Despite falling in love, the protagonist finds he cannot adapt to the matriarchal, pastoral and mystical society.
A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James de Mille (Canada, 1888)
Four yachtsmen find a manuscript describing the voyage of Adam More into a lost world of prehistoric animals and plants, hidden away near the South Pole. This mysteriously sub-tropical land is inhabited by an apparently friendly and affable race called the Kosekin who, however, turn out to practive human sacrifice and cannibalism. In a complete reversal of 19th Century Western society, the Kosekin regard death as the greatest blessing they can bestow, crave darkness, consider requited love a curse to be avoided, and scorn wealth. Women are also considered equal to men and expected to take the lead in matters of love.
Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy (USA, 1888)
A young aristocratic Bostonian falls asleep under hypnosis in 1887, and awakes in Boston of the year 2000, a city of beauty and grace and undreamed-of prosperity. In 2000, there are no rich and no poor, but a happy, healthy population of equals. A national government runs all industry much more efficiently than the old private enterprise system, and everyone is given an equal monthly allowance which they can spend on housing, food or travel as the individual decides. There are no armed forces, no police force, no lawyers, bankers, or salesmen.
New Amazonia by Elizabeth Burgoyne (“George”) Corbette (England, 1889)
Subtitled "A Foretaste of the Future", this feminist utopia envisions Ireland in the year 2472 populated by highly evolved Amazon women who are seven feet tall and live for hundreds of years. Their society is a version of state socialism, where men are barred from political office due to their history of corruption and bigotry. Vegetarianism is the norm, and a form of euthanasia eliminates any deformed babies or bastards.
News from Nowhere by William Morris (England, 1890)
An Englishman of 1890 wakes to find himself in a post-revolutionary and post-industrial 21st Century England based on an ideal communism with no money, no private property and perfect equality. Labour is shared equally and is considered a pleasure rather than a necessary chore. Unlike in Looking Backward, modernity and science has been abandoned in favour of low-tech crafts.
Freiland (Freeland) by Theodor Hertzka (Austria, 1890)
Known as the “Austrian Bellamy” for the similarity in his utopian views, the political economist Hertzka wrote about an imaginary communistic colony in Africa called Frieland (or Freeland) and then actually tried (unsuccessfully) to create a real Freeland in Africa.
Caesar’s Column by Ignatius Donnelly (USA, 1891)
This prescient dystopia, subtitled "A Story of the Twentieth Century", depicts a future New York in the year 1988, where a ruthless financial oligarchy rules over an abject and downtrodden working class. The ruling elite enjoy the city's technological marvels (including airships, transparent sidewalks, power from tapping into the aurora borealis, exotic restaurant menus and televised newspapers), while the populace is ruthlessly kept down by a rapacious and oppressive privatized army and a corrupt judicial system. The visiting author's account ends as the secret underground resistance known as the Brotherhood of Destruction organizes a bloody rebellion against the ruling oligarchies, and he escapes to the safety and sanity of a simple agrarian society.
Earth Revisited by Byron A. Brooks (USA, 1893)
The book's protagonist dies but then re-awakens a hundred years in the future. New York in 1992 is altogether cleaner, better organized, healthier and more peaceful, at the same time more prosperous and more egalitarian. Like The Diothas, Brooks' future utopia anticipates several technological developments we have already seen, and he incorporates many ideas that were popular in his time, such as spiritualism, hypnotism, clairvoyance and reincarnation.
Sub-Coelum by Addison Peale Russell (USA, 1893)
The book, subtitled "A Sky-Built Human World", is a sort of fantasy divided into 145 very short chapters rather than a conventional novel. Unlike most utopias of the period, Russell's is a conservative one, praising the values of individuality, the rule of law, and sexual restraint.
Unveiling a Parallel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant (USA, 1893)
A future traveller to Mars encounters two different societies there, although both of them take for granted the equality of the sexes. Paleveria is a capitalist state, where the women have taken on many of the negative characteristics of men. Caskia, on the other hand, has a much more feminine, cooperative and egalitarian outlook, and intellectual, artistic and spiritual pursuits are encouraged.
Young West by Solomon Schindler (USA, 1894)
Unashamedly subtitled "A Sequel to Edward Bellamy's Celebrated Novel 'Looking Backward' ", this book by a radical Boston rabbi extends the lives of Bellamy's main protagonists and their son, who ultimately goes on to become President of the United States. However, Schindler's book is more informed by his agnosticism, and his belief that socialism was more likely to arise in Europe than America.
A Traveler from Altruria by William Dean Howells (USA, 1894)
A visitor from the isolated island of Altruria visits the USA and a comparison of the two countries ensues. Altruria is a Christian socialist country where money has been abolished and there is no distinction between rich and poor. Physical labour is shared among the population and so the working day is just three hours, and excellence is achieved by excellently serving others. Howells also published two more related volumes: Letters of an Altrurian Traveler (1904) and Through the Eye of the Needle (1907).
The Human Drift by King Camp Gillette (USA, 1894)
More a prospectus than a novel, this was the first statement (later revisited in his World Corporation of 1910 and The People's Corporation of 1924) by the utopian socialist and inventor of the disposable safety razor of his ambitious and detailed plan plan for an immense three-level city called Metropolis, powered by electricity from Niagara Falls. The city was to accommodate the entire population of the USA (upwards of 60 million), with most of the rest of North America left as a natural environment, and it was to be possessed of a perfect economic system of production and distribution, run by a World Corporation. May be out of print.
2894 or The Fossil Man (A Midwinter Night's Dream) by Walter Browne (USA, 1894)
This extremely rare book describes a society of dominant women and submissive men.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (England, 1895)
The protagonist of this short novel, known simply as “The Time Traveller”, voyages 800,000 years into the future and finds an apparently gentle, fruit-eating child-like species called the Eloi. In a world without struggle, hardship or war, the human race has become weak and unimaginative. However, it soon becomes apparent that a second branch of humanity has also survived, the bestial cannibal Morlocks, who live underground and run the machinery for the Eloi, on whom they feed. In Wells’ dystopia, it seems that both the downtrodden working classes and the leisured aristocracy have lost their edge and reverted to sub-human levels of intelligence - social Darwinism taken to its logical conclusion.
The Milltillionaire by Albert Waldo Howard (USA, 1895)
Originally published under the pseudonym M. Auberré Hovorré, the Milltillionaire of the title is a high official in a future society known as the Bardic State, one of 25 ruling bards collectively called the Alphabets. The society has no money, taxes, crime, or personal property, and a powerful state apparatus provides for the needs of the people, who live in huge, dense, circular cities, hundreds of miles wide, set amid pristine countryside. The people are vegetarian, practise free love, and communicate telepathically.
Equality by Edward Bellamy (USA, 1897)
In the sequel to Looking Backward, Bellamy continues his critique of 19th century capitalism, and expands further on life in the idyllic society he foresees for the 21st Century. Sexual equality has been achieved, handwriting has been replaced by photographic records, all the world speaks a universal language in addition to their own (thus simplifying communications), and everyone is vegetarian.
When the Sleeper Wakes by H. G. Wells (England, 1899)
Later re-published as The Sleeper Awakes, this is a dystopian novel about a man who wakes after a 203-year sleep. As well as the prescient imagination of airplanes and air battles, televisions and moving walkways, Wells imagines a society two centuries after his own where the lower classes are de facto slaves and servants, most of the upper classes fritter life away in Pleasure Cities, and a tiny elite effectively rules the world, selfishly and ruthlessly.