John Milton as a theorist of liberty

Professor Quentin Skinner (Queen Mary, University of London)
13 November 2012

Abstract (see History SPOT blog for full version)
Had Keats lived, there would have been a rival. But as it is, there is no one to touch Milton as a master of English poetry and of prose. It was one of the pleasures of Quentin Skinner's Creighton lecture that he used it, as he himself remarked, as an excuse to quote some of the finest passages of seventeenth century prose. One of Skinner's main points was that Milton's conception of liberty was not, as is dominant in modern thought, freedom of action; rather it is freedom from the arbitrary power of another. In Milton's time this arbitrary power was expressed above all by the royal veto, or "negative voice", and is one of the principal planks of Milton's argument against the institution of monarchy.  More... 

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How frail was the thread that held Paradise Lost. Ghastly to think it might never have made it.