This course aims to lead students into a greater appreciation for and an understanding of Magna Carta and its significance around the globe, as we approach the 800th anniversary of its sealing. The course examines why Magna Carta was radical in its day, why it has been a source of numerous debates, and why this anniversary is being celebrated in the present.
In 1215, King John sealed Magna Carta by the Thames at Runnymede in Surrey, a charter between the monarch and his Barons placing limits on his power over freeborn men in the kingdom. Magna Carta enshrined the principle that all people should be bound by the rule of law, including the monarch, and that the processes of justice must be applied to all. Many political thinkers have celebrated Magna Carta as the first example of a bill of rights, an ancient constitution.
This introductory course, based on a new level 5 course Commemorating the Past that will be offered for the first time in 2014-15, examines the historical roles that Magna Carta has played, and the importance of Magna Carta today. Members of the History Department at Royal Holloway, a college of the University of London, will deliver the course. In addition to the lectures with an explicit historical focus, the lecture in week four will explore the continuing international significance of Magna Carta, and of Runnymede, through interviews with members of the Geography Department, the Politics and International Relations Department, experts in the history of law, and others.