History 12 Reading Guide

Secular Communities:  Robert Owen and New Harmony

  • Donald E. Pitzer, "The New Moral World of Robert Owen and New Harmony," in Pitzer, America's Communal Utopias, 88-134.

Document:

  • Robert Owen, "Address delivered April 27, 1825," New Harmony Gazette, in David Brion Davis, Antebellum American Culture (1979), 445-447.  (e-reserve)
  • Robert Owen, "Address delivered May 6, 1827 to the people of New Harmony," reprinted in Paul Brown, Twelve Months in New Harmony (Cincinnati, 1827; reprinted Philadelphia: Porcupine Press, 1972), 98-106.   (e-reserve)

Further reading:

  • Lucy Jayne Kamau, "The Anthropology of Space in Harmonist and Owenite New Harmony," Communal Societies 12 (1992), 68-89.
  • Lucy Jayne Botscharow, "Disharmony in Utopia:  Social Categories in Robert Owen's New Harmony," Communal Societies 9 (1989), 76-90.
  • Carol Kolmerten, "Voices from New Harmony:  The Letters of Hannah Fisher Price and Helen Gregoroffsky Fisher," Communal Societies 12 (1992), 113-128.

Questions:

We begin our examination of non-sectarian, secular-socialist communities with Robert Owen's "cooperative community" at New Harmony, Indiana (est. 1825).

  • How does Owen's vision of an "entire new state of society ... an enlightened social system" (1825)--the Community of Equality; the New Moral World--compare with the visions of the religious communitarian leaders that we have been studying? Was Owen a theorist or a realist?
  • How well did the ideas and reforms that Owen developed in Lanark, Scotland, suit the economy and polity of the United States in the mid-1820s? What was it about American society that Owen could not understand?
  • Why did the community at New Harmony have such trouble realizing his vision of a system of equality? How did Owen understand the relationship of individual to society?
  • To what extent was the development of Owen's communal experiment at New Harmony shaped not by his ideals but by the cast of characters who gathered there?
  • What did Owenism contribute, both to Socialism and to communalism?