Perceptions of Magna Carta: Why has it been seen as significant?

Caroline Eele

University of Durham: Master’s Thesis: March (2013)


Magna Carta has often been presented as the foundation of English liberties, guaranteeing the rights of English citizens against the arbitrary actions of those governing the country. Throughout its eight centuries of existence it has been cited in many political disputes and many rights and liberties have been attributed to it. Although Magna Carta was a thirteenth-century feudal charter created to resolve the immediate crisis of civil war, it has been perceived to be significant and relevant in many subsequent periods of British history. This study seeks to investigate the causes of this perception and explain why people have made appeals to it for eight hundred years. Magna Carta was a series of concessions made by King John in June 1215 to his barons in an attempt to end civil war. In May, a group of barons had renounced their allegiance to John, accusing him of oppressive misgovernment and infringing their ancient liberties. The military successes of the baronial party led John to attempt to reach a settlement with the rebels. These negotiations resulted in the drawing up of a charter of liberties to deal with grievances, which later became known as Magna Carta. In this charter, John granted a set of liberties dealing with feudal, administrative and legal matters. Although within months the charter was annulled by the Pope and repudiated by the king, it was later reissued by supporters of Henry III during his minority to secure the new reign and confirmed by the king at the beginning of his personal rule in 1225. The 1225 version of the charter was placed on the first statute roll in 1297.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Durham

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