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HIST 122 World Civilization II

Published : 01-Oct,2021  |  Views : 10


You will be required to analyze one of the primary sources listed below and place it within its proper historical context. What I mean by this is that you will show how the text fits into the narrative we have been studying. How does the source lend depth to our understanding of the period? What ideas does it reflect? What do we learn about the culture that produced this text?

Here are the sources you can choose from:

"The English Civil War" (Chapter 16, pp. 528-529) -- Analyze BOTH the demands of the Levellers (Document 1) AND Charles I's rejection of Parliament (Document 2)

John Milton, "Defense of Freedom of the Press (1644)" (Chapter 16, p. 542)

Daniel Defoe, "The Social Effects of Growing Consumption" (Chapter 17, p. 561)

Denis Diderot, "Encyclopedia (1755)" (Chapter 18, p. 590)

"The Rights of Minorities (1789)" (Chapter 19, p. 627)

"Address on Abolishing the Slave Trade (February 5, 1790)" (Chapter 19, p. 641)

"An Ordinary Soldier on Campaign with Napoleon (1812)" (Chapter 20, p. 665)

"Wordsworth's Poetry" (Chapter 20, p. 673)


John Milton was an English civil servant under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and he had expertise on several things (Patterson, 2014). He was a poet, a polemicist and of course a man of letters. When he published his epic poetry Paradise Lost, the socio-political situation was at an edge due to religious flux.  Milton is mostly known due to his enormous talent as a poet, but he got engaged in several socio-political activities and out of them, he gained more popularity for advocating for the freedom of press in that point of time (Popkin, 2015).

In his prose polemic Aeropagitica, John Milton shared philosophical defenses of the basic principle regarding the right to freedom of speech and expression (Whitten-Woodring & Van Belle, 2014). In that pamphlet Milton mentioned that the freedom of press should prevail, ‘‘I deny not but that it is of greatest concernment in the church and commonwealth to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well as men; and thereafter to confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors’’. Milton wanted that his vision about the freedom of speech and freedom of press should be shared and that is why he made pamphlets and shared those to make sure that his views are distributed among the public (Patterson, 2014). Milton in his pamphlet Milton demanded the liberty to know, argue fearlessly according to the conscience. Milton said that free expression is the fundamental and an unalterable liberty and the priority of that should be on the higher side.

Milton always had a personal feeling of resentment against the government since the government had censored many of his creative works and especially the creations about the political and regarding the controversial laws of that time (Rumrich, 2015). Milton’s Aeropagetica can be considered as a blunt attack on the Licensing Order Act of 1643, as according to this act, it was stated that an author’s creation would be first approved by the government and then only it will be eligible to publish for the public. This act also demanded a pre-publishing license, seizure and destruction of the copies of any books if it seems to be disturbing or against the institution (Gatti, 2015). Along with those, it was also mentioned that government has the right to arrest and punish anybody if it is seen that due to that individual’s creation the government might face some challenges, in this context Milton said ‘‘As therefore the state of man now is, what wisdom can there be to choose, what continence to forbear without the knowledge of evil?’’  

In general Miltons’ argument was that before publishing a creation, before getting the public response, it will be unethical if the government plans to ban a book or any sort of creation. Had he been alive this time, he would have been horrified by the current censorship of North Korea (Witte & Nichols, 2016).  Though Milton at his time advocated for the freedom of speech, but the pres was never free completely. Milton perceived that some means of accountability was important to make sure that libel was prevented. He stated that, this could be done if a safeguard can be put, if the authors and individuals who print the creations could take legal responsibilities of the content they are intending to publish. Milton said if an individual kills another person, he will be killing a reasonable creature but if an individual destroys a book, he will be killing the reason himself (Davis, 2017). For Milton, the books are priceless as they content numerous notions, those ideas might be wrong, to some extent offensive or unorthodox, but it would allow others to think with reason and improve themselves as human beings. In this context he also claimed that if the set of ideas are not shared in the society, the reasoning ability of the individuals will surely get affected, and then individuals might not get closure to attain the reasoning skills (Woods, 2013).

Milton further stresses on the fact that even the false opinions should get published and then only individuals will get the opportunity to distinguish between the right and wrong.  Those false opinions might be racist, hateful, offensive or non-factual but those should get published and public should have access to those contents (Achinstein, 2014). It is a matter of fact that the ideas of Milton have influenced the present laws of UK regarding this issue.

Thus to conclude, it can be said that undoubtedly Milton’ unique view and rational thinking made the platform of critical thinking and the ability to speak against the institution. His progressive ideas made platform for the reformation of many age old ideas and laws and those immensely benefitted the society.  Milton justified his idea by saying that if a particular content is offensive or full of hatred, another individual could perceive the content as a thoughtful one. Thus a particular content can be helpful to someone and at the same time harmful to someone, thus the matter is relative. It is up to the particular individual how he or she would perceive the matter. Thus Milton advocated for the freedom of press, and that was one of the revolutionary acts of that time.


Achinstein, S. (2014). Milton and the revolutionary reader. Princeton University Press.

Davis, J. C. (2017). Religion and the Struggle for Freedom in the English Revolution. In Alternative Worlds Imagined, 1500-1700 (pp. 139-171). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Witte, J., & Nichols, J. A. (2016). Religion and the American constitutional experiment. Oxford University Press.

Gatti, H. (2015). Ideas of Liberty in Early Modern Europe: From Machiavelli to Milton. Princeton University Press.

Rumrich, J. (2015). Radical Heterodoxy and Heresy. A Companion to Milton, 2, 141-156.

Patterson, A. M. (2014). John Milton. Routledge.

Whitten-Woodring, J., & Van Belle, D. A. (2014). Historical guide to world media freedom: A country-by-country analysis. CQ Press.

Woods, S. (2013). Milton and the Poetics of Freedom. Duquesne University Press.

Popkin, J. D. (2015). Media and revolution. University Press of Kentucky.

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