We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Historical Milton

Print, Manuscript, and Political Culture in Revolutionary England

Thomas Fulton

Publication Year: 2010

John Milton's Commonplace Book is the only known political notebook of a radical polemicist writing during the English civil war, and the most extensive manuscript record of reading we have from any major English poet from this period. In this rethinking of a surprisingly neglected body of evidence, Thomas Fulton explores Milton's reading practices and the ways he used this reading in his writing. Fulton's close study of the Commonplace Book suggests that this reading record is far from the haphazard collection of notes that it first appears but is instead a program of research which had its own ideology that responded to the reading habits and practices of Milton's contemporaries. Created mostly in the late 1630s and during the overthrow of the Stuart government in the 1640s, Milton's reading notes yield a number of surprises, the most fundamental being a highly structured commitment to political history. Fulton explores the relationship between the manuscript author and his polemical persona, placing the Commonplace Book, the manuscript "Digression" to the History of Britain, and some wartime poems in revealing contrast to the printed political texts of this period.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


pdf iconDownload PDF

Title Page

pdf iconDownload PDF
p. iii

Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF
p. iv

Table of Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF
p. vii

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF
p. ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. xi-xiii

This book would never have been possible were it not for the kind support— academic and material— of the Rutgers English Department, chaired at different times by Richard Miller and Kate Flint. They both advised me in crucial ways and, along with Deans Ann Fabian and Barry Qualls, enabled me to obtain support essential to the completion of this ...


pdf iconDownload PDF
p. xv

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-14

In the past twenty years, research on the history of the book has produced an increasingly detailed sense of how the technologies of reading— such as notebooks, libraries, and practices of annotation— shaped the ways readers confronted texts, collected information from them, and recirculated this information in their own writing. Historians...

read more

Chapter 1: A Material History of Texts in Milton’s England

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 15-37

The writing of literary history is complicated by the fact that what remains of the past bears only a partial relation to what actually existed. This problem is far more severe for the earliest stages of literary history, where— to take the most famous example— the chance survival of a single flame-scorched manuscript now known as Beowulf must represent...

read more

Chapter 2: Combing the Annals of Barbarians: The Commonplace Book and Milton’s Political Scholarship

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 38-81

There are limits to what source study can reveal about the derivation of a writer’s ideas, even when we are fortunate enough to have a substantial collection of notes from that writer. Yet even in the most straightforward ways, Milton’s collection of notes, titled the Commonplace Book shortly after its discovery in 1874, remains...

read more

Chapter 3: Areopagitica: Books, Reading, and Context

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 82-114

Criticism of Areopagitica has often sought either to extol the work as a cornerstone in the foundation of the liberal tradition, or to diminish and even renounce such claims as misreadings of Milton’s more conservative intentions. Following the Whig and Romantic lionization of Milton during the nineteenth century, traditional...

read more

Chapter 4: “The Digression” and Milton’s Return to Polemics

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 115-142

In early 1649 Milton revisited the polemical battlefield after a long and mysterious absence from public debate. Rushed into print within two weeks after the king’s execution, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates marks a return after a hiatus of almost four years— the last two divorce tracts having appeared in March 1645. Milton’s only...

read more

Chapter 5: History and Natural Law in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 143-173

At the end of Marvell’s “Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland,” written in the late spring of 1650, Marvell bids Cromwell to keep his “sword erect,” not only because the gesture has, according to myth, the power to ward off evil spirits, but also because the sword has become necessary...

read more

Chapter 6: “His Book Alive”: Defending Popular Sovereignty after the Execution

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 174-197

Milton’s Latin defense addressing Europe, satirically titled A Defense of the People of England, against Claude the Anonymous, Otherwise Known as Salmasius, begins with the promise that he will show “under what law, particularly that of the English, this judgement was made and executed” (PW 52). As is generally...

read more

Chapter 7: Conclusion: Historical Politics and the Instability of Print Culture

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 198-206

In the course of the period covered in this book, Milton moves from being a polemicist whose chief purported audience is the Parliament, to a polemicist justifying the overthrow of this Parliament, to a counter-propagandist— perhaps even a propagandist— for the newly constructed Rump Parliament. Soon...

Appendix A: The Index Politicus of Milton’s Commonplace Book: Authors, Texts, and Citations

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 207-220

Appendix B: The Scribal Entries in Milton’s Commonplace Book: Amanuenses, Students, Researchers, or Visitors?

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 221-228


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 229-264


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 265-288


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 289-304

Back Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
p. 306

E-ISBN-13: 9781613760239
E-ISBN-10: 161376023X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558498440
Print-ISBN-10: 1558498443

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 7 illus.
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 794700491
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Historical Milton

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Manuscripts.
  • Milton, John, -- 1608-1674 -- Political and social views.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Books and reading.
  • Polemics in literature.
  • Commonplace-books -- History.
  • Books and reading -- England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Political culture -- England -- History -- 17th century.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access