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Magna Carta

Origins and Legacy

Magna Carta is the most famous document in English history. And yet its survival is purely accidental. King John, who negotiated the document with his rebellious barons, had no intention of honouring its contents. Annulled by the pope within weeks of being issued, it was destined to oblivion. But with the sudden death of John, all of this changed. Magna Carta was reissued by the regents of the boy King Henry III as an apology for past misrule and as a promise of future good government. It was reissued on successive occasions and repeatedly cited in legal cases in the following centuries. Later, it played a part in conflicts such as the English Civil War and the American Revolutionary War. Echoes of Magna Carta are to be found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It continues to be cited today as a touchstone of fundamental universal freedoms. 

This book tells the story of the birth and development of Magna Carta from its origins to the modern day. It also reproduces and describes, for the very first time, every surviving copy of the Great Charter, as well as related charters of the period, including various new discoveries. It addresses the previously unanswered question of how the charter was published and disseminated to the shires of England and includes a chapter on the charter's scribes and sealing, supplying a truly unique insight into both the creation and afterlife of the most fundamental legal document in British history.

160 pages | 40 color plates | 8 1/4 x 9 3/4 | © 2015

History: European History

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Table of Contents


Part One: History

Introduction: What matters about Magna Carta?
1. King John and the making of the great charter
2. Runnymede 1215
3. The great charter 1215-1300: From defeat into victory 
4. The charter ancient and modern
5. The charter as artefact: Winston Churchill and America’s Magna Carta

Part Two: The Archival and Documentary Evidences for Magna Carta

Introduction: The many faces of Magna Carta
6. Statute making and the publication of law to 1300
7. Scribes of Magna Carta manuscripts
8. A census of Magna Carta manuscripts 
9. The 1225 Magna Carta: Text and translation

Genealogy of the Kings of England, 1066-1377
List of abbreviations
Glossary of technical terms
Index of manuscripts
Index of persons, places and subjects

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