Hobbes: Leviathan (Part 1) link
Milton: Areopagitica link
Both of these pieces were written during the English civil war. I happened to read some historical fiction set during the Restoration period, Neal Stephenson's 'Quicksilver' and that helped me understand what was going on. Then I read part of Churchill's 'History of the English Speaking People', roughly the section that covers the 17the century, including all of the civil war. That also helped me to understand what prompted these writings.