Canterbury Historical Association Panel

Canterbury Historical Association Panel: Magna Carta – Rights & Legacies: 9th June

The Canterbury Historical Association held a panel at 6:30 pm in South Arts Lecture Theatre A4 at the University of Canterbury. Medieval Historian Dr Chris Jones chaired the panel where four post graduate students presented their research on various topics relating to the Magna Carta including The Legal Relevance of Magna Carta in twenty-first century New Zealand and Magna Carta and Reform of the Church. You can read the full CHA programme here and the details for the panel here.

Review by Dr Chris Jones, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Canerbury

Tuesday 9 June saw the Canterbury Historical Association host a lively panel discussion with a focus on Magna Carta. Three postgraduate speakers from the University of Canterbury’s History Department each took fifteen minutes to explore new and under-explored aspects of the charter with an audience of 40-50 Cantabrians. The evening began with PhD candidate Anna Milne-Tavendale’s reflections on the way the French royal dynasty used their foundation of Franciscan religious houses, in particular the abbey of Longchamps, to critique the political instability of competing royal courts such as that of King Henry III in England. Milne-Tavendale suggested that Magna Carta may have inspired the writer of the monastery’s Rule, Isabelle of France, in her radical assertion of several fundamental rights of the Franciscan nuns. This was followed by MA student Hannah Smith’s focus on two of the less well-known clauses of the original 1215 charter: those that impacted on England’s Jewish community. Smith placed both clauses in their historical context, explored the relationship between the Crown and English Jewry, and explained why it is worth remembering that not every aspect of Magna Carta should be lauded. Finally, the evening wrapped up with PhD candidate Lindsay Breach’s discussion of the legal relevance of Magna Carta in twenty-first century New Zealand. Magna Carta might first appear to be a rather dusty irrelevance. Breach, however, demonstrated that Clause 29, the charter’s most famous guarantee of rights and the only clause to remain in force in New Zealand today, has been employed by New Zealand courts as recently as 2014. This includes an otherwise mundane case involving land in Auckland. The three papers offered those attending a variety of fresh and exciting new perspectives on the Charter informed by ongoing postgraduate research at Canterbury.    

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