"This is a new account of the intellectual, literary and political development of one the central poets in the English canon. Author Nicholas McDowell follows John Milton more or less from his birth in 1608 and his education to his emergence as a polemical prose writer in the 1640s, concluding at the moment when Milton turned his pen to defending the execution of Charles I in 1649 in the closing years of the English Civil War, though several years before the onset of the poet's blindness and the composition of Paradise Lost. As the author makes explicit, this is not a book about the writing of Milton's great biblical epic; rather, it is a book about the formation of the mind that eventually would create this epic, though only after that same mind, of course, justified the killing of a king. Central to the book is Milton's evolving understanding of the ways in which 'tyranny'-defined initially in ecclesiastical and clerical terms but which grows to encompass political organization-retards the intellectual and cultural progress of a nation. McDowell demonstrates how this understanding was shaped not only by Milton's historical experience of the political turbulence of mid seventeenth-century Britain, but also by the interaction between that experience and his intellectual life. This, the author says, was Milton's period of intensive and almost entirely orthodox reading in history and religion, and it was then that he came to see any clerical encroachment upon civil authority as tyranny. His intellectual pursuits, in tandem with wider events, led him to turn to explicitly political prose writing in the defence of regicide at the beginning of 1649. This biography of the first half of the poet's life shows us how John Milton the young poet, scholar, humanist, and universalist became John Milton the puritan, republican and polemicist"--