News from Nowhere is a utopian novel by William Morris, first published in 1890. William Morris I think is perhaps best known as a painter and textile designer, closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, founded in 1848. But Morris was also a writer, his works including the epic poem The Earthly Paradise (1868-70), The Well at the World's End (1896), and of course News from Nowhere.
William Morris has been very much influenced by Past and Present by Thomas Carlyle (1843) and grew increasingly against Victorian capitalism, finding refuge in Medieval culture with its art, literature, and even architecture. He became a socialist, involved with the Social Democratic Federation and then founding the Socialist League (1884 - 1901), though abandoning it in 1890. Socialism contains a myriad of movements - Morris, in his university days, began to associate with Christian socialism, which is a socialism based upon the teachings of Jesus, arguing that the worship of money has displaced God and that money is the root of all evil, and using Bible references such as "Defend the poor and the fatherless. Vindicate the afflicted and the poor. Rescue the poor and the needy, delivering them from the power of the wicked" (Psalm 82: 3-4), "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6: 10), and "He executes justice for the orphan and the widows, loves the foreigner, and gives them food and clothing. You are to love the foreigner, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 10:18–19). I picked on these specifically because I think they're worth noting in this current political climate.
News from Nowhere is a socialist classic - utopian science fiction. It begins with the narrator, William Guest, returning home from an acrimonious meeting with the aforementioned Socialist League. He falls asleep and wakes up in 1955, a time where Marxism meets an idealised Medievalism that Morris was so fascinated. Here is a time where there is no private property, no cities, no money, and no prisons, social class is a thing of the past, and there is no kind of hierarchy; Morris himself had interested in anarchy, and I think here it's important to note that the very definition of anarchy is simply without authority - "a", or "ἀ" from the Greek meaning without, and "archy" or ἀρχή meaning leader or authority, so literally 'without rules' or leadership. Like socialism however, the interpretations are numerous.
Morris uses this structure to reply to the objections to socialism, using characters such as the wise Old Hammond, Dick and Clara, and Ellen and giving the reader a very vivid vision of a socialist society. It is a beautiful work, inspiring too, but very much of its time; women, for example, are seen as 'bearers of children' who continue to look after the home. This is not an unusual belief for the 19th Century and I doubt very much that people will read it as a handbook on how to live like socialists. It is simply a beautiful and insightful work and it does answer some questions people may have on this topic. It's also a very sad book, through no fault of Morris: as I say it is set in 1955, a utopia Morris created and no doubt hoped for, so far away from how things really turned out. I loved reading it, despite that melancholic air, and though for it's vision it is far from perfect, it is a very hopeful work and almost practical in not only in it's attempts to answer questions but also in the fact Morris offers this vision to accompany what would be an abstract idea.