Celebrating the Magna Carta
Apr 23, 2015
Be honest. What do you remember about the Magna Carta? Before conducting a little research, all I remembered was that:
- It was a document;
- It guaranteed some sort of rights (I wasn’t sure which ones); and
- It hailed from Britain.
That was it: My repertoire included 3 whole facts about the Magna Carta. I imagine most people, at least in the US, know about the same regarding that auspicious document.
Should we care? Well, that is a question we must all answer for ourselves. If we’re going to care, this is the year to do it. This year marks the 800th birthday of the Magna Carta and seeing as how we were not around for the last centennial anniversary and that we are unlikely to attend the next, we may as well discuss it this year.
Here’s the thing: There’s a lot of history to the Magna Carta and honestly both you and I will probably forget the majority of the information within 5 days so let me give you a much abbreviated version.
Originally, the Magna Carta was an agreement that was signed by King John in 1215 in the hope that it would forestall war. Unfortunately, that earlier document did not pre-empt war between King John and his barons. Subsequent versions of the document were enacted at different times in British history to guarantee certain rights to some (eventually most) of the people.
Of course, there is more to it. If there wasn’t, then our middle and high schools teachers failed by teaching us (already forgotten) facts about a failed treaty. The original Magna Carta and the revised versions are the basis or at least an early embodiment of several legal concepts that we cherish including the due process rights, habeas corpus and trial by jury. Of course, the history and the effects of the Magna Carta are more nuanced than my above explanation...but that's about the gist of it.
Have I awakened your desire to learn more about the Magna Carta? If so, you’re in luck. May 1st is Law Day. This year the ABA and the Riverside County Law Library are celebrating Law Day by remembering and promoting awareness about the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Come in to the library during April 27th through May 1st to find out enough information about the Magna Carta to make your eight grade history teacher (Hi Ms. Wilson!) proud.