Magna Carta

Time required – 1 hour 30 minutes

The memorial of the Magna Carta at Runnymede
The memorial at Runnymede, given by the American Bar Association and unveiled on 18th July 1957.

The memorial at Runnymede, given by the American Bar Association and unveiled on 18th July 1957.

The material summarises the complex, political factors which dogged King John before and after his succession in 1199; it describes John’s character and comments on his apparent failings and weaknesses. After a brief portrayal of English society in the 13th century, the talk concentrates on the relationship between the King, his Barons, the Pope and the Church in England.

The presentation offers a simple, 'listener friendly' account of the issues, which forced King John to concede a charter of freedoms; it explodes a few myths concerning the agreement at Runnymede and describes how events probably unfolded during June 1215. The material includes a photograph of the Baron’s list of demands, which evolved into the Magna Carta. Comment is made on the men who were most likely responsible for writing and disseminating the charter and on the most important clauses in their famous text.

The events which followed the meeting at Runnymede were perhaps more important than the initial agreement itself. Considerable time is devoted to discussing the reissues of Magna Carta during the 13th century and its introduction to the New World in the 17th century. The talk finishes with an outline of the text’s significance to contemporary societies.

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