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British Imperial Expansion and Transformations of Paradise Lost, 1667-1837
This study investigates how Milton's texts, above all Paradise Lost, were read in the context of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century British empire building. Milton's epic was implicated in the articulation and criticism of early modem colonialist discourse; it also lent itself easily to later imperial and anti-imperial appropriations. Milton the `national poet' emerged from the strife between Whigs and Tories for his legacy; this book analyses Milton's presence in a number of discourses that are characteristic of the Whig model of secular history: the discourses about empire, language and literary criticism, travelling and astronomy, agriculture, commerce and Pax Britannica, as well as the slave-trade. The temporal frame extends from the Restoration through the loss of the American colonies to the Second British Empire and `Milton in India'. Eighteenth-century British national epics, commented Milton editions and poetic Milton recreations invented a tradition for the British Empire and reintroduced the Virgilian concept of translatio imperii, transforming Milton's allegories of divine power into descriptions of secular authority. This study contextualizes traditional stories about `Milton and Romanticism' by examining mostly `minor' writers; still, Dryden, Johnson, Pope and Blake feature in some detail. The epilogue shows that even postcolonial rewritings of Milton make more sense in the light of the eighteenth-century Milton and his presence in the nineteenth-century British colonial education syllabus.