Appelbaum surveys literature from 1603 to the 1660s and shows how its ideal politics were engaged in the reality of political and social struggle. He also shows how self-defeating the exercise could be. In an era of political and religious conflict, writers asserted themselves as the authors of social and political ideals. But they also constructed systems in which the assertion of utopian mastery would have no place, and an ideal politics could no longer be imagined. This study will interest political and cultural historians as well as literary critics.