Only Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur sold more
copies during the 19th century. Published in 1888, Edward
Bellamy's Looking Backward, 2000-1887 sold more than a
million copies. When the book appeared, the nation was still suffering
from a financial contraction in 1883 and the aftermath of the
1886 Haymarket Square bombing in Chicago.
The book's main character, Julian West, lives in Boston in
1887, a time of wrenching poverty, labor strikes, and ostentatious
wealth. One night, while he is in a hypnotic trance, his house
burns and the servant, the only person who knows about the underground
chamber, dies. He is not awakened until the year 2000. By then,
all companies have merged to form one giant trust. Less attractive
jobs are made more desirable by shorter hours. At the age of 45,
all men and women retire.
Politicians and corruption have disappeared. So too have lawyers,
since in a society without want or inequality, there is no need
for laws. War has also been abolished. A world body regulates
international relations and nations' "joint policy toward
the more backward races, which are gradually being educated up
to civilized institutions."
The Atlanta Constitution feared that the novel might
bring "a new crusade against property and property rights
Copyright 2019 Digital History