John Milton (1608-74) was born in London, and was educated at St Paul's School and subsequently at Christ's College, Cambridge. Thereafter he spent some years in private study, visiting France and Italy in the late 1630s. Upon his return to a nation now in political crisis, he devoted himself to teaching and to the publication of a series of increasingly radical pamphlets on religious and political liberty, including defences of divorce, a free press, and the right of a people to depose and execute a tyrannical king. He became completely blind in 1652. After the Restoration he was politically muzzled, but in this period he published his mature poetic masterpieces, including Paradise Lost (1667). Today, Milton is best known as a poet; in his own time, it was for his polemical prose that he was both celebrated and reviled. Dr William Poole is a tutorial fellow at New College, Oxford. He has published widely in the areas of early-modern literary, intellectual and scientific history.