A former student of Christ’s, John Milton stands out among European poets for the ambition of Paradise Lost, his celebrated epic which retells the Biblical story of mankind’s Fall. Our exhibition, timed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his birth, traces the origins of Milton’s poem in the turbulent currents of English history through which he lived. Although best known as a poet, Milton was also one of the seventeenth century’s most controversial religious and political thinkers. Towards the end of his life, shut up in prison by the newly-restored monarch, Milton’s fearless pursuit of personal liberty would have near-fatal consequences.

How have later poets, artists and reformers responded to Milton’s legacy? The extraordinary Milton collection in the library of Christ’s College, Cambridge—of which only a small part can be displayed here—tells the story of his influence through a variety of evocative artefacts. It shows that Milton’s hold on our imaginations is equally powerful now, as we mark the four centuries since his birth.

Milton's Education

Milton at Christ's

Early Works

Paradise Lost

Milton and Politics

Illustrating Paradise Lost

Late Works

Milton's Influence


All text copyright Sarah Howe and Christ's College Library. Images copyright Christ's College Library. If you would like to use any of our images, or learn more about our Milton collection, please contact the Library.