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UK Disability History Month

John Milton

John Milton (1608-1674) was an English poet and intellectual, who served as a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under its Council of State and later under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost. 

Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse. The first version, published in 1667, consists of ten books with over ten thousand lines of verse. A second edition followed in 1674, arranged into twelve books with minor revisions throughout. It is considered by critics to be Milton's major work, and it helped solidify his reputation as one of the greatest English poets of his time. 

The poem concerns the biblical story of the Fall of Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton's purpose, stated in Book I, is to "justify the ways of God to men." 

John Milton’s career as a writer of prose and poetry spans three distinct eras: Stuart England; the Civil War (1642-1648) and Interregnum, including the Commonwealth (1649-1653) and Protectorate (1654-1660); and the Restoration. Milton’s chief polemical prose was written in the decades of the 1640s and 1650s, during the strife between the Church of England and various reformist groups such as the Puritans and between the monarch and Parliament.  

 In March 1649 Milton was appointed secretary for foreign tongues to the Council of State. His service to the government, chiefly in the field of foreign policy, is documented by official correspondence, the Letters of State, first published in 1694. Milton vigorously defended Cromwell’s government in Eikonoklastes (1649), or Imagebreaker, which was a personal attack on Charles I likening him to William Shakespeare‘s duke of Gloucester (afterward Richard III), a consummate hypocrite. Up to the Restoration, Milton continued to write in defense of the Protectorate despite going blind by 1652.