Visit The Magna Carta Project website for more on Magna Carta and King John.

Monday 29 June 2015

Magna Carta Exhibition at the Weston Library

Dr Hugh Doherty, who curated the Weston Library's Magna Carta exhibition
Visitors to Oxford’s Weston Library during the past month will have seen engrossments of two different versions of Magna Carta, together with a collection of other documents from the period, on display in an exhibition curated by the Magna Carta Project’s Dr Hugh Doherty.

One engrossment is that of the issue of 1217, marking the end of the civil war that followed King John’s rejection of the Runnymede Charter of 1214. The other dates from 1225, when what became the definitive version of the Charter---the Charter subsequently copied into the Statute Book---was issued by Henry III.

Alongside these Charters is a selection of other contemporary and near-contemporary documents and manuscripts from the Bodleian's rich collection relevant to the history of Magna Carta. These include a late twelfth-century manuscript copy of Henry I's coronation edict of 1100, a contemporary copy of King Stephen’s charter of liberties for the English church, and a very interesting, non-chancery copy of the 1215 Magna Carta, possibly transcribed by a clerk in the service of the papal legate Guala and subsequently taken to Italy. Also on display is one of the three surviving manuscripts of Roger of Wendover’s chronicle, which is an essential (if partisan) narrative for events in 1215--17. 

Hugh Doherty explains the thinking behind the exhibition: 'The exhibition highlights two essential themes in the construction and drafting of Magna Carta. The first---much overlooked in popular narratives on the subject---is the tradition of royal edicts confirming and declaring established (as well as imagined) custom and law. Magna Carta thus stands in a long tradition, and this tradition is illustrated by such examples as Henry I's coronation charter and King Stephen's charter of liberties for the English church. The second theme is the flawed and failed nature of John's kingship and personality. There are thus a number of documents in the exhibition relating to the king himself. Magna Carta was a direct and detailed rejection of his kingship'.

The exhibition has now closed, but you’ll be able to read more about these documents in Nicholas Vincent’s forthcoming book on Magna Carta for Bodleian Publishing

Barnet pupils learn about Magna Carta

Last week, on 22 June, David Carpenter spoke to school students from Barnet about Magna Carta, as part of the borough's programme of commemorations for the Charter's 800th anniversary. Some 85 students from were present, from Henrietta Barnett School, Harsmonean Boys, Harsmonean Girls, Christ’s College Finchley, St James’ Barnet, St Andrew The Apostle and St Mary’s and St John’s CE School. David discussed the origins, nature, meaning and consequences of Magna Carta, and fielded many very acute questions from the pupils. 

Pictured here with David are students and teachers from St Mary’s and St John’s CE School

Monday 15 June 2015

English Historical Review: Magna Carta special issue

In celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, English Historical Review has published a special issue showcasing key research on the Charter presented in the journal.

The collection was brought together by the Magna Carta Project’s Nicholas Vincent, who contributes an introductory essay surveying over one hundred years of Magna Carta scholarship.

The special issue includes articles from the early twentieth century by J.H. Round and John C. Fox, as well as two articles by the great Magna Carta scholar Sir James Holt, who died in May 2014 (a third edition of Holt’s Magna Carta will be launched this week at the Magna Carta Conference). An article on Stephen Langton by John Baldwin, who died in February 2015, also features – as does David Carpenter’s 2011 discussion of Langton and the Charter. Ifor Rowlands’ article on the publication of Magna Carta, published posthumously in 2009, is also included.

The articles from the Magna Carta issue, including Nicholas Vincent’s introductory survey, can be downloaded free of charge from the EHR website

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Magna Carta podcasts and videos

Burlington House, home of the Society of Antiquaries
Over the past three years, and in the last few months more than ever, members of the Magna Carta Project have been busy bringing Magna Carta to a diverse range of interest groups and audiences.  

Recently, Nicholas Vincent took part in a discussion on ‘Magna Carta: Our Legal Right to a Healthy Environment’, as part of the Castle Debates series. Chaired by Jonathon Porritt, the debate examined whether the Charter might be a precedent for a long-lasting agreement about environmental stewardship. Here, Nicholas spoke about the concept of natural justice in Magna Carta. You can listed to a podcast of the recording on the Castle Debates website.

Meanwhile, on 2 June, David Carpenter gave a public lecture at Burlington House, home to the Society of Antiquaries, on the definitive issue of Magna Carta given by Henry III in 1225. You can view a video of the talk here. This was part of a public lecture series held as part of the Charter’s anniversary celebrations, in which Stephen Church also spoke, here about the context of Magna Carta. The Society is also holding an exhibition on the Charter, which runs until the end of July.

You can hear David, Nicholas and Stephen at the Magna Carta Conference, coming up on 17-19 June at King's College London and the British Library.