Saturday, 23 November 2019

areopagitica

With the extended expository title, A speech of Mʳ John Milton (previously) for the Liberty of Vnlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England, published this day in 1644 during the height of the Civil War is one of most impassioned and enduring appeals to the freedom of expression and invective against censorship.
Referencing a speech delivered by fourth century BC Athenian oratory Isocrates from the Areopagus hill facing the Acropolis arguing for restoration of the power of the council for conducting tribunals, John Milton’s thirty page pamphlet criticises the government for refuting the works of authors without due examination and quashing publication before allowing the public to weigh on the merit of an article or essay. “A good Booke is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, imbalm’d and treasur’d up on purpose to a life beyond life.” Though not immediately securing press freedoms with parliament continuing with its pre-publication censorship with the intent to suppress what it deemed libelous or seditious, Milton’s polemic communicated to the public the importance of publishing houses being independent of government influence and how their methods were arbitrary and prone to backfire.