Publish at August 07 2022 Updated August 07 2022

Magna Carta and its Legacies: Freedom and protest

The roles that Magna Carta has played historically

This course examines the roles that Magna Carta has played historically as well as the importance of Magna Carta today. It aims to equip students with a critical understanding of Magna Carta and its significance around the globe. Students will find out what Magna Carta is, how it came about, and why many believe that it remains one of the most significant documents in history. We will investigate why Magna Carta was perceived as 'radical' in its day, why it continues to be the source of numerous debates, and why its anniversaries are celebrated widely up until the present day. Magna Carta's most recent anniversary took place in 2015, when the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta's sealing on the meadows of Runnymede in Surrey was celebrated.

  • Week 1 - Magna Carta, Parliament and the Law 1215-1300 : Welcome to Magna Carta and its legacies: Freedom and Protest. Our focus this week is Magna Carta in the 13th century. In the video lectures we'll be exploring the importance of Runnymede, the events of June 1215. The ideas contained within the great charter, and the story of how the Magna Carta, a failed peace treaty, became a permanent and iconic feature of English history. Join us in the forums, as we discuss whether King John was as bad as popular history suggests and debate whether Magna Carta is an extreme, or even revolutionary document.
  • Week 2 - The Reinvention of Magna Carta, 1508-1642 : This week is led by Professor Justin Champion, Professor of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway. The objectifs are gaining an understanding of the uses of Magna Carta in the changing politics of the 16th and 17th centuries and an insight into the printed texts of the period in relation to Magna Carta.

    In this session we will explore:
    How the sixteenth century public re-encountered the Magna Carta through new print editions and translations into English legal handbooks
    How these print editions informed the development of legal thinking in the Inns of Court, and developed an understanding of liberty and the common law.
    You will acquire a perspective on the printed history of texts (1508-1759) that either reproduced the text of the Magna Carta, or used it for specific legal or political purpose.
    You will develop an understanding of the radical reinvention of the political significance of Magna Carta in the idea of the ‘Ancient constitution’ by exploring the efforts of Sir Edward Coke both in his legal commentaries and his Parliamentary activities.

  • Week 3 - Magna Carta: Civil War to Revolution, 1642-1776 : This week is again run by Professor Justin Champion

    In this session we will explore : 
    How Magna Carta was used in debates from the English Civil War to the American Revolution
    Consider how these ideas crossed both time and space
    How historians might identify and begin to analyse relevant publication patterns in respect to the two learning objectives above.
  • Week 4 - Magna Carta and the wider world: Constitution Making : This week is run by Dr. Emm Johnstone 

    Over the course of this week it is hoped that you will gain a deeper insight and have an understanding of the following:

    A deeper understanding of debates over property rights and land rights in the 19th century
    Knowledge of parliamentary reform in the 19th and 20th centuries
    Knowledge and understanding of the reasons for remembrance and commemoration

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