By: Castello Newton Holford (1844-1905)
Aristopia (published 1895) is truly an alternative history. It is an imagination of how the continent of North America might have developed if one man with the vision, altruism and determination to build a state for the benefit of all its people had been in the happy position of having wealth enough to make his dream a reality.
It is an interesting book which deserves its place in literary history largely for being the first novel-length example of its genre. It is written, not as a novel, but as unvarnished history. Only a few passages seem really to catch alight with the idealistic passion of the country's founder, Ralph Morton. Those that do, however, are powerful.
Borrowing heavily from actual documents of the period such as Captain John Smith's Journal, and also from More's Utopia, Newton appears to use his book to show how the vast natural resources of the new continent could, with the vision and wealth of a man like Morton, have improved the lives of huge numbers of the poor, disenfranchised and disaffected of Europe, instead of making relatively few men very rich indeed. In keeping with the thinking of his own time, he seems not to have considered to any great extent how this would still have displaced the native inhabitants of Morton's new 'Commonwealth'.