Reading literary texts in their historical contexts has been the dominant form of interpretation in literary criticism for the past thirty years. This collection of essays reflects on the origins of historicism and its present usefulness as a mode of literary analysis, its limitations, and its future. The volume provides a brief history of the practice from its renaissance origins, offering examples of historicist work that not only demonstrate the continuing vitality of this methodology but also suggest new directions for research. Focusing on the major figures of Shakespeare and Milton, these essays provide important and concise representations of trends in the field. Designed for scholars and students of early modern English literature (1500-1700), the volume will also be of interest to students of literature more generally and to historians.