'Nature’s coyn must not be hoorded': Milton and the economics of salvation, 1634-1674

Swann, Adam (2014) 'Nature’s coyn must not be hoorded': Milton and the economics of salvation, 1634-1674. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3007300


Milton’s use of economic tropes has attracted very little critical attention, and the connections between economics and theology in his thought have not yet been explored. Blair Hoxby’s Mammon’s Music: Literature and Economics in the Age of Milton (2002) focuses on the influence of economic ideas on Milton’s political thought, arguing that the poet persistently associates trade monopolies with autocratic abuses of monarchical power. David Hawkes places Milton’s lifelong professional usury at the centre of his 2009 biography, John Milton: A Hero of Our Time, and his 2011 essay, ‘Milton and Usury,’ fruitfully reads key passages from Paradise Lost in relation to contemporary tracts on usury. Hoxby and Hawkes have astutely highlighted the relationship between economics and Milton’s thought, but neither scholar has pursued these connections into Milton’s theology. Economic ideas lie at the very heart of Milton’s soteriology, and my thesis offers a historicised investigation of Milton’s corpus, demonstrating that the tropes of contemporary economic thought were crucial to his understanding of sin and, more importantly, salvation.

Chapter 1 traces the roots of this economic soteriology to the economic and theological treatises of the 1620s and early 1630s, which argued that money must be not stockpiled but circulated, and that salvation was a transaction between man and God. Chapter 2 considers how Ben Jonson and George Herbert, whose work Milton was familiar with in his youth, used The Staple of Newes (1626) and The Temple (1633) to respond to contemporary developments in economic and theological thought. Chapter 3 reads Milton’s early works as studies of hoarding and consumption, traced through the debate over sexual stockpiling in Comus (1634), the sinfulness of a hoarding nation in the History of Moscovia (early 1640s), and the clergy torn between their compulsions to covet and consume in Of Reformation (1641). Chapter 4 finds in Gerrard Winstanley’s Fire in the Bush (1650) an explicitly economic understanding of the Fall, and demonstrates how Milton’s political and religious writings of the 1650s betray an anxiety that the English cannot govern their economic appetites and, therefore, themselves. Chapter 5 examines how Milton uses tropes of investment, profit, loss, and repayment in the Christian Doctrine and Paradise Lost (1667) to represent redemption as a transaction between Jesus and God on man’s behalf. Chapter 6 reads the History of Britain (1670) as an indictment of isolationist economic policies, with Milton demonstrating that free interactions between peoples facilitate national refinement, and thus strangers become saviours.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: John Milton, 17th-century literature, economic history, theology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Maley, Professor Willy
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Adam Swann
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-4823
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2014 12:35
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2020 11:07
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/4823

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