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John T. Shawcross’s groundbreaking new study of John Milton is an essential work of scholarship for those who seek a greater understanding of Milton, his family, and his social and political world. Shawcross uses extensive new archival research to scrutinize several misunderstood elements of Milton’s life, including his first marriage and his relationship with his brother, brother-in-law and nephews. Shawcross examines Milton’s numerous royalist connections, complicating the conventional view of Milton as eminent Puritan and raising questions about the role his connections played in his relatively mild punishment after the Restoration.

Unique in its methodology, The Arms of the Family is required reading not only for students of Milton but also for students of biography in general. Entire chapters dedicated to Milton’s brother Christopher, his brother-in-law Thomas Agar, and his nephews Edward and John Phillips, illuminate the domestic forces that helped shape Milton’s point of view. The final chapters reconsider Milton’s political and sociological ideology in the light of these domestic forces and in the religious context of his three major poetic works: Paradise Lost, Paradise Regain’d, and Samson Agonistes. The Arms of the Family is a seminal work by a preeminent Miltonist, marking a major advance in Milton studies and serving as a model for those engaged in family history, social history, and the early modern period.

John T. Shawcross is professor emeritus of English at the University of Kentucky and the author and editor of many books.

"An important book, by the reigning Miltonist of the world, marking a major advance in Milton studies. It reveals hitherto unexamined relationships and connections and is the most important contribution, since William Riley Parker, to a greatly expanded Milton biography."—Joseph Wittreich, City University of New York

"Brings to light a whole new body of knowledge concerning Milton's family and serves as a corrective to the biographical and literary misconceptions that have been uncritically taken for granted during our own time and earlier . . . . A crucial statement not only about Milton and his 'extended family' but about the social and political world that he and his family occupied. A truly important and engaging work, this is a book that will be essential reading for students of Milton, as well as students of biography in general."—Michael Lieb, University of Illinois

"Much of this material is inherently very fascinating, and it undermines the familiar accounts of Milton as straightforwardly the radical product of a radical milieu."—Milton Quarterly

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






John Milton, Royalists, Family history, Milton studies, English poets


Literature in English, British Isles

The Arms of the Family: The Significance of John Milton's Relatives and Associates
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