Professor Nicholas McDowell

Research interests


Literary, cultural and intellectual history c. 1500-1780, specializing in poetry and prose.

Topics and authors on which Professor McDowell has published include

  • literature and the English Civil Wars
  • literature and political allegiance
  • theology and religious difference
  • heresy, heterodoxy and radicalism
  • translation and literary transmission, particularly Anglo-French contexts
  • education, humanism and the universities
  • patronage and literary circles
  • representations of Ireland; connections between early modern English and modern Irish poetry
  • scholarly editing and textual studies
  • Milton
  • Marvell
  • Herrick, Lovelace, and the ‘Cavalier' poets
  • Swift

Nicholas McDowell's doctoral thesis was on the relationship between humanist educational culture and radical writing during the English Revolution, and was published in 2003 by Oxford University Press in the Oxford English Monographs series as The English Radical Imagination: Culture, Religion, and Revolution, 1630-1660. See

His second monograph, Poetry and Allegiance in the English Civil Wars: Marvell and the Cause of Wit (Oxford University Press, 2008), is on the relationship between allegiance, patronage and literary admiration in England between 1642 and 1660. The central focus is on the vexed question of Andrew Marvell's early political identity and the book seeks to make sense of Marvell's early poetic and political activity in the context of the decisions of his friends and fellow poets, including Milton and Lovelace. See

He is the editor, with Nigel Smith, of The Oxford Handbook of Milton (Oxford University Press, 2009; paperback, 2011), a collection of newly-commissioned research essays ranging across the poetry and prose by 35 leading scholars. This volume was awarded the Irene Samuel Award of the Milton Society of America for most distinguished collectionon John Milton. See 

He is the editor, with N. H. Keeble, of The Oxford Complete Works of John Milton. Volme VI: Vernacular Regicide and Republican Writings (Oxford University Press, 2013), for which he completed a 230,000-word scholarly edition, the first in 50 years, of Milton's 1649 prose writings in defence of the execution of Charles I and on behalf of the English republic. This volume was awarded the 2015 John T. Shawcross Award of the Milton Society of America. See

Currently he is writing an extensive intellectual biography of John Milton, commissioned by Princeton University Press, and editing, with his Exeter colleague Henry Power, The Oxford Handbook of English Prose, 1640-1714.

He is a contributing editor of Critical Quarterly and has edited a special issue on the theme of 'Shakespeare, Milton and the Early Modern: Current Issues and Future Approaches' (52, 4, 2010). See 

He was one of the Associate Editors, with responsibility for 1625-1660, of The Encyclopedia of English Reniassance Literature, 3 vols. (Blackwell, 2012), general eds. Garrett Sullivan and Alan Stewart, assoc. eds. Rebecca Lemon, Nicholas McDowell, and Jennifer Richards.

In 2007 he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize by the Leverhulme Trust in the category of Modern European Languages. Prizes are awarded to ‘outstanding scholars (normally under the age of 36) who have made a substantial contribution to their particular field of study, recognized at an international level, and whose future contributions are held to be of correspondingly high promise.’

In 2009-10 he was The Herodotus Fund Member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

In 2010-11 he was a Visiting Fellow of the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, Cambridge, as part of the 2009-11 theme of ‘The Future University’.

In 2014-15 he was a Leverhulme Research Fellow, working on a new project which derives from his earlier essays on the reception and translation of Rabelais: 'The English Rabelais: Translation, Morality and Fiction, 1580-1780'.