Happy Magna Carta Day!

One of four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. This copy is one of two held at the British Library. It came from the collection of Sir Robert Cotton, who died in 1631. In 1731, a fire at Ashburnam House in Westminster, where his library was then housed, destroyed or damaged many of the rare manuscripts, which is why this copy is burnt.

One of four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. This copy is one of two held at the British Library. It came from the collection of Sir Robert Cotton, who died in 1631. In 1731, a fire at Ashburnam House in Westminster, where his library was then housed, destroyed or damaged many of the rare manuscripts, which is why this copy is burnt.

Today marks the 800th anniversary of the first issuing of the Magna Carta by King John of England (1199-1216). For many centuries the English-speaking world has looked to it as the foundational document in our tradition of limited government and the rule of law.

I’m pleased to see all the commentary about the Magna Carta’s significance and thought I would put up some links to help folks learn more about the document and navigate the commemorations.

First of all, here’s the text of the 1215 original, with notes to indicate which clauses were altered or omitted on the later reissuances.

Here’s the BBC’s story on today’s commemoration at Runnymede, at which the queen was present and at which the prime minister spoke on the document’s importance.

Ralph Turner, with whom I took two classes at FSU, is an expert on King John and the Magna Carta. Here is one of his books on the subject and a piece he wrote for History Today in 2003.

Russ Roberts recently interviewed Nicholas Vincent of the University of East Anglia about the Magna Carta on the Econtalk podcast. It’s well worth the listen.

The Cato Institute recently hosted an event titled “The Magna Carta and the Rule of Law around the World.” I haven’t watched it, but may later. Proceed at your own risk. Cato’s Roger Pilon also posted something today in honor of the anniversary.

Of course, James Bovard can be counted on to remind us that pieces of paper do not enforce themselves in his commentary on the Magna Carta.

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About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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