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 Familyis 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 Familyis 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.