Milton's Imperial Epic: Paradise Lost and the Discourse of Colonialism

By J. Martin Evans | Go to book overview

2 The Colony

Now the reasons for plantations are many: Adam and Eve did first begin this innocent worke to plant the earth to remaine to posterity.

-- John Smith, Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters of New England

For most of Milton's lifetime, English colonial policy was a curious amalgam of disparate and sometimes contradictory aims. Broadly speaking, however, the arguments that were advanced for settling North America can be divided into two general categories which I shall call the purgative and the expansive. Purgative arguments were based on the widespread belief that England's population had grown so dramatically during the sixteenth century that the country was bursting at the seams. The vast continent across the Atlantic, on the contrary, appeared to be only sparsely populated, and as such it offered precisely the kind of lebensraum that the nation believed it needed. "What a number in every town," Richard Eburne wrote in 1625, "yea in every parish and village, doe abound, which for want of commodious and ordinary places to dwell in, doe build up Cotages by the highway side, and thrust their heads into every corner, to the grievous overcharging of the places of their abode for the present, and to the very ruine of the whole Land within a while, if it be not looked unto; which if they were transported into other regions, might both richly increase their owne estates, and notably ease and disburden ours." 1 Despite the claim that emigrants might be able to live more prosperously in other regions," the main burden of Eburne's proposal is clearly the improvement of conditions in England itself. The argument looks inward, not outward.

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Milton's Imperial Epic: Paradise Lost and the Discourse of Colonialism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Colonial Idea 10
  • 2 - The Colony 30
  • 3 - The Colonists 60
  • 4 - The Colonized 86
  • 5 - The Narrator 112
  • Conclusion 141
  • Notes 149
  • Bibliography 175
  • Index 189
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