Utopian Dreams, Earthly Realities

Utopian societies promise a new way of living, but are they doomed to fail?

Vera Pragnell, early 19th century.
Vera Pragnell, early 20th century. Courtesy the Author.

The dream of escaping to the country retains a powerful hold on our imagination. It had a particular purchase during the interwar era, as demonstrated by the rise across Europe of a back-to-nature philosophy that embraced everyone from ramblers to nudists and folklorists to craftspeople.

The Sanctuary, founded in the Sussex countryside by the Christian mystic Vera Pragnell, was one of the more ambitious schemes to emerge. It was the attempted creation of a rural Arcadia intended as the model for a new global movement.

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