History of the Magna Carta

This page contains links detailing the history of the Magna Carta

Book: Magna Carta The Foundation of Freedom

Review by Dr Stephen Winter

Over the past week I have been reading Nicholas Vincent’s Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015. This beautiful volume provides a comprehensive account of Magna Carta’s role in the social and political history of Britain and the Commonwealth. With chapters by leading legal and historical scholars, the book combines erudition and accessibility as it works chronologically, taking the reader from the legal and political world of the Anglo-Saxons, through the Norman Conquest and the Plantagenet dynasty up to the political circumstances surrounding Magna Carta’s sealing in 1215. Here the book pauses to examine the content of Magna Carta and explore why and how it was written. It then takes the reader forward, through the varying 13th and 14th century reissues and the place Magna Carta occupied in the late medieval world. Subsequent chapters address the role of Magna Carta in English Civil Wars of the 17th century and the American War of Independence of the late 18th century. In both cases, Magna Carta (now with more power as myth than as law) shaped the ideas and principles of those involved. The last chapters examine the roles that Magna Carta played globally, both in the development of the British Empire, and in the general constitutional imagination of the English-speaking world. Beautifully illustrated, with hundreds of photographs and a full translation of the 1215 version, it is a book to treasure.

Partial proceeding from book sales go to the Magna Carta Trust. More information is available here.

History of the Magna Carta: 800 years of liberty

Written by the UK Magna Carta Committee, this page gives a short overview of the history of the Magna Carta. You can read it here.

BBC4 Magna Carta series

In this four part BBC4 radio series, Melvyn Bragg looks at the events leading to the creation of the Magna Carta, the turmoil surrounding its inception, and its legacy. Each part is approximately 40 minutes. You can listen to it by clicking here.

Radio NZ: Lindsay Digglemann: Magna Carta

In this 18 minute interview, Lindsay Digglemann from the History Department at the University of Auckland gives an overview of the history of the Magna Carta and the various historical interpretations. You can listen here.

HistoryExtra debate about Magna Carta

This article from HistoryExtra.com highlights a debate between Professors David Carpenter and George Garnett about if we are commemorating the sealing of the document on the correct day.


New Zealand Historical Association 

New Zealand History Teachers Association 

UK Magna Carta Committee

British Library

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