Areopagitica, freedom of the press, and heterodox religion in the Holy Roman Empire

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Milton’s Areopagitica (1644) is widely recognised as a foundational work in the philosophical history of the freedom of the press, although it had little impact upon first publication. However, in 1989 Leo Miller discovered an early German-language critique of Areopagitica from 1647, preserved among the papers of the Anglo-Prussian intelligencer Samuel Hartlib. The present article identifies the critic as the Brandenburg scholar Joachim Hübner, a key member of Hartlib’s networks. Available evidence suggests strongly that Hübner considered translating Milton’s tract in order to promote the printing and distribution of heterodox doctrines of spiritualist Christianity in the Holy Roman Empire. Using the short critique of Areopagitica as a springboard, this article demonstrates through biographical and contextual research the interrelations of political and religious cultures of the period, and that questions of freedom of the press were central to promoters of heterodox religious doctrine not only in England but also on the continent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-61
Number of pages17
JournalSeventeenth Century
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Areopagitica
  • censorship
  • Joachim Hübner
  • John Milton
  • Samuel Hartlib

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