Max Nettlau’s Utopian Vision

Max Nettlau’s Utopian Vision

A Translation of Esbozo de Historia de Las Utopias

Edited and translated by Toby Widdicombe

Anthem Anarchist Studies

Max Nettlau’s Utopian Vision provides a historically grounded presentation of the entire literature of utopianism. Nettlau shows an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject.

Hardback, 208 Pages


April 2023

£80.00, $110.00

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About This Book

Max Nettlau’s Utopian Vision provides a historically grounded presentation of the entire literature of utopianism. Nettlau shows an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject. He passionately believed that the value of utopian thinking and class struggle should not be underestimated as utopian desire exists in all of us. Utopian thinking, according to Nettlau, stimulates the imagination and awakens the desire to attain a better life for everyone. Nettlau argues that every idea begins as a utopia: some are realized; others are not. Utopian thinking also creates a desire for radical change in society without which no new reality could emerge. Every reality is first dreamed of and, then, the act of dreaming awakens the desire for realization. It is the same desire without which every piece of art would be unthinkable. When utopian ideas reach the masses, forces are released that build bridges into the future and make things possible that otherwise would only exist as dreamlike imaginings. Indeed, Nettlau claims that history is the record of utopian thought practically imagined.


“Max Nettlau’s Esbozo de historia de las utopias, translated into English for the first time as Max Nettlau’s Utopian Vision, is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of utopianism or anarchism. Toby Widdicombe’s translation supplemented with extensive notes concerning the often forgotten but important authors and movements makes it an invaluable tool for any researcher.Lyman Tower Sargent, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“In 1925, Nettlau, a bibliographer-activist and renowned historian of anarchism, published serially in Spanish his history of European and some American, British, and Latin American utopias. Without Widdicombe’s excellent introduction and translation, this fascinating alternative to Mumford’s The Story of Utopias (1922) could have languished in obscurity.” —Kenneth M. Roemer, Emeritus Fellow, University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers; Author of The Obsolete Necessity, America as Utopia, Utopian Audiences.

“Toby Widdicombe’s retrieval of Max Nettlau’s history of utopia for the English-speaking world provides an invaluable service to scholars and students of utopian and anarchist studies. Beyond his very readable translation, Widdicombe assembles an incredible amount of supporting material from numerous appendices to a thirty-five page bibliography. It is a triumph of dedicated scholarship.” —Francis Shor, Professor Emeritus, Wayne State University, USA.

Author Information

Toby Widdicombe is Professor of English at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He has specialized during his career in utopianism, Shakespeare, American literature, and textual studies.


Anthem Anarchist Studies

Table of Contents

Preface; Acknowledgments; Introduction; Outline of the History of Utopias; 1. Definition; 2. The Classical and Medieval Ages; 3. The Renaissance and Neo-Classical Periods;  4. The Nineteenth Century (to 1888); 5. 1888 to the Twentieth Century; The Twentieth Century: 1900–1925; Notes; Appendix A Select Nettlau Bibliography; Appendix B An Annotated Gazetteer of Nettlau’s Utopians; Appendix C List of Intentional Communities in Esbozo; Appendix D List of Utopian Newspapers and Journals in Esbozo; Bibliography; Index


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