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The literary lives of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey could have been very different, or even non-existent, if only they’d had a little more money in their younger days.

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That’s assuming the place really is meant to be a paradise in the first place.

Whatever it is, in More’s book Utopia is described by a traveller called Raphael Hythloday who bends the narrator’s ear with a survey of our own corrupt, far-from-happy side of the world before enthusiastically describing how much better things are in the island republic of Utopia on the far side of the world.

You find yourself in a street in a small city – exactly which city is hard to say because all the streets in all the cities on this island are equal in size and virtually identical in appearance. Yes, this is Amaurot, the capital of city of the island-state of Utopia, where the very idea of a “public house” is redundant: every house is “public” because no house is “private”, and the double doors to each of those identical houses around you are not locked. The Utopians find this architectural uniformity saves them a lot of collective mental adjustment when they move house – which they do in a regular and orderly fashion every decade, by drawing lots.

All the buildings are the same height (three storeys each) and are constructed from the same materials. As you would soon discover on your journey through Utopia – for which you would need a special licence, by the way – this is indeed a society founded on reason, organised rationally for the benefit of all.

And the ultimate benefit of this rational hierarchy is pleasure – not just “any kind of pleasure”, please, but only “good and proper pleasure”, either for the body or the mind.

You don’t need to be a raging libertarian to realise that living in the Utopia of all Utopias, is strictly for those who are rational, egalitarian and all but selfless.From the air, the design of the Italian city of Palmanova is striking.It was originally a nine-pointed star citadel with ramparts and a moat, founded on 7 October 1593, as part of the Venetian Republic’s defences against the Ottoman Empire.By the time the Dutch arrive on the island, nature has taken its course: it is George’s grandson who rules the roost, and rebellion is stirring one branch of his extensive (yet closely related) family.The Dutch help to restore order and then leave, but not before hearing that “whoredoms, incests and adultery” abound in this island paradise, and seeing that the civilised advantages with which the colony’s founders arrived have been forgotten. We can just call it Utopia – an original name, coined by More himself, for an original and hugely influential idea.

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