Born: 1 January 1788
Died: 8 November 1856
Étienne Cabet, was a French utopian socialist and founder of a utopian, communal settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois. After a career as a teacher, lawyer, revolutionist and political exile, Cabet published a novel called Voyage en Icarie (1840) that outlined his theories on the ideal community, whilst shrewdly criticising the contemporary society of his time.
Seeking to put his ideas into practice, he and several hundred followers landed in New Orleans in 1848 and 1849. He purchased an old Mormon settlement in Nauvoo, Ill and led 280 settlers there to start Icaria. The settlement was at best a compromise for Cabet as he was unable to apply many of his ideas into the daily life of the society. The population never exceeded 1,800. In 1856 dissension arose and Cabet left with 180 followers for St. Louis, where he soon died. Icarian colonies were established at Cheltenham, near St. Louis; at Corning, Iowa (dissolved 1884) and at Cloverdale, California (dissolved 1895).
Étienne Cabet and utopianism are synonymous given that he not only envisaged what he deemed to be an improved society/ human social existence, but he had the bravery to construct this society. Although his communities did not survive and Cabet’s vision of making “a truly second Promised Land, an Eden, an Elysium, a new Earthly Paradise,” was in its nature subjective, his contributions to Utopian Studies and his lifestyle make him a Great Utopian.