Recent Non-Fiction Book About Failed New England Utopian Farm
September 28, 2016 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I was listening to an episode of the BBC's "History Extra" Podcast sometime in the last year or two and they interviewed a historian who'd recently written a book about utopias, specifically a failed New England farm in the 1800's started by people with good intentions but who weren't good at farming. Does anyone remember this episode or know the book it was talking about?

As I remember there was an
- interview with the author (an academic)
- it was written within the last few years
- may have been a religious group that started this farm
- they had big-picture utopian goals but were horrible at carrying them out
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
From 2011, so not very recent, but was it this book on Fruitlands?
posted by shibori at 9:59 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

This was a pretty common situation in New England during the 19th century, when utopian back to the land movements were popular, especially as part of the Second Great Awakening.

My first thought was Brook Farm? Shakers? Maybe one of the Fourierist settlements?

Going through the podcast archives would probably be easier than going through all the utopian agrarian settlements in 19th century New England.
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Could the book be Erik Reece's Utopia Drive?

(And yes, there were a lot of failed Utopian communities in the 19th century, but Brook Farm is the most well-known.)
posted by neroli at 10:04 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Could it be Ellen Wayland-Smith's Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table?
posted by chicainthecity at 10:18 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: In researching Brook Farm, I think that was what the interview/book was about... but man, can't find anything about it on the History Extra site! Thanks for these suggestions!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 10:31 AM on September 28, 2016

Can't find anything obvious in the podcast archive, but I've only looked back as far as 2011. Could the book be the highly-regarded Gregory Claeys, Searching for Utopia: The History of an Idea (London: Thames & Hudson, 2011)?
posted by davemack at 11:20 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

This recent New Yorker article discusses a number of books dealing with Utopias in the U.S.
posted by Postroad at 11:49 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

American Bloomsbury dealt with the Alcotts, Emersons, and other utopian farm types.
posted by Miko at 12:01 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, now I'm wondering if I dreamed it up... or possibly cobbled together a bunch of podcasts in my memory?? I think that Gregory Claeys book MAY have been it. However I now have a great reading list suggested by MeFites. Many, many thanks.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 12:46 PM on September 28, 2016

Oneida has totally featured on several podcasts.
posted by Kreiger at 12:49 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

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