The Political History of the Devil is a study of the devil by novelist, satirist and political journalist Daniel Defoe (1660?–1731). It was published in 1726 but this illustrated edition is from 1819.
Defoe, a Protestant Dissenter, believed in the devil as a physical being at work in the world. The Political History of the Devil suggests that the devil appears on earth both in his own form and through inhabiting the bodies and minds of other beings. Defoe was strongly anti-Catholic and here he associates the devil with Catholicism, specifically with the Pope.
The Political History of the Devil in George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss
Maggie Tulliver reads The Political History of the Devil
as a young child, at the beginning of The Mill on the Floss
. It is likely that this 1819 edition is the same as Maggie’s, since the image shown here entitled ‘Ducking a Witch’ is very like the one Maggie describes, with ‘an old woman in the water’ and a ‘dreadful blacksmith with his arms akimbo, laughing’ (Book I, Ch. 3). The other illustrations are equally gruesome. The Political History of the Devil
would be a difficult book for a child to read (it belongs to Mr Tulliver), and the fact that Maggie enjoys it suggests her intelligence, love of learning and capacity for perseverance.
Eliot herself owned a copy of The Political History of the Devil when she was young. Her husband John Cross wrote in his biography of her that her copy was ‘still religiously preserved at Griff [the house in which Eliot lived as a child] with its pictures just as Maggie looked at them’.