Polychronicon 159: Interpreting Magna Carta

Teaching History feature

By Justin Champion, published 14th June 2015

First some history: the question of how historiographic and public historical representations of Magna Carta have changed over the last 800 years is an important one. The ‘myth' of Magna Carta as a foundational document for modern democracy is still very powerful.

That tradition of understanding the legacy and history of the moment of 1215 has been built up out of four key eras. First, the history of the dispute between King John and the barons which produced the text of the Magna Carta, its reinvention in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the consolidation of the legal and constitutional reputation in the long eighteenth and nineteenth century, and then lastly the global or universal reputation of the Magna Carta moment and text in modern times...

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