Magna Carta is one of the most famous documents in the world. Explore its 800-year legacy with unique collection items, newly-commissioned articles by leading experts, videos and animations and a range of teaching resources. School groups can also contribute a clause towards a new Magna Carta for the digital age.

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  • What is Magna Carta?

    What is Magna Carta?

    Narrated by Monty Python’s Terry Jones, this animation takes you back to medieval England to explore the tyranny of King John, the frustrations of the barons and the significance of the charter’s original clauses.

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    Magna Carta and human rights

    ‘If we allow the Human Rights Act’s destruction, the precious house of rights we’ve built together will come tumbling down.’ Reflecting on the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, Shami Chakrabarti warns us that today’s human rights legislation is under threat.

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    Medieval kingship

    Magna Carta and kingship

    When Magna Carta was created, England had endured 16 years of John’s kingship – a rule based largely on extortion, legal chicanery, blackmail and violence. Here Dan Jones discusses King John's infamous reign.

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    Introduction

    My Digital Rights

    Do we need an equivalent Magna Carta or a new bill of rights to protect the future of the internet? Magna Carta: My Digital Rights provides free classroom resources to support Secondary and FE students and teachers as they consider their rights and responsibilities online.

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  • 800 years of Magna Carta

    800 years of Magna Carta

    Over the centuries Magna Carta has influenced kings and statesmen, lawyers and lawmakers, prisoners, Chartists and Suffragettes. But how did this old piece of parchment become such a powerful symbol of our rights and freedoms? Narrated by Monty Python’s Terry Jones, this animation explores Magna Carta’s 800 year legacy.

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    Empire and after

    The British Empire lasted more than 300 years and spanned the globe. During this time, Magna Carta was used by imperialists to justify global ambition and by indigenous people to demand liberty and justice. Dr Zoe Laidlaw considers the significance of Magna Carta in relation to imperialism.

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    Magna Carta today

    Why Magna Carta still matters today

    Why does Magna Carta matter 800 years after it was first sealed? Looking at Magna Carta as a document of historical and legal significance, Professor Justin Fisher explores the evolution of our rights and freedoms, and examines the relevance of the Great Charter today.

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    Magna Carta in modern America

    Modern America and Magna Carta

    Curator Dr Matthew Shaw explores the role of Magna Carta in the politics and popular culture of modern America. From The Simpsons and Jay-Z to the American law courts and the ‘War on Terror’, discover the significance of Magna Carta in the USA today.

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  • King John and the origins of Magna Carta

    King John and the origins of Magna Carta

    Professor David Carpenter and Professor Nicholas Vincent discuss the reign of King John, the grievances of the barons and the circumstances in which Magna Carta was created in 1215.

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    Magna Carta in the modern age

    Today Magna Carta has become a world-class brand, representing human rights, democracy and free speech – despite the fact that the original document makes no mention of these principles. Joshua Rozenberg explains Magna Carta’s place in modern legal and popular culture, and reveals the importance of its 800-year-old symbolism.

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    Radicalism and reform

    Radicalism and suffrage

    Dr Alexander Lock discusses Magna Carta’s relationship to parliamentary reform and to radicals fighting oppressive government. Find out how this medieval peace settlement was reinvented as a potent symbol of liberty and justice.

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    The origins of Magna Carta

    The origins of Magna Carta

    Professor Nicholas Vincent explores the medieval context in which the historic agreement at Runnymede was created, examining King John’s Plantagenet heritage, his loss of French territory and his relationship with the Church and the barons.

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Themes

Why was Magna Carta agreed at Runnymede in 1215? What did the document say, and how was it interpreted over the next 800 years? Why is it still important today, and how does it affect our culture, laws and rights? Explore the themes below to find answers to all these questions and more.

Medieval origins

Why was Magna Carta agreed in 1215? Explore the medieval context in which the historic meeting at Runnymede took place.

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Clauses and content

Clauses and content

What does Magna Carta actually say? Why are some clauses still part of English law, while others have been forgotten?

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Legacy

Legacy

From the English Civil War to Nelson Mandela’s trial, find out how Magna Carta has been invoked and interpreted by figures across the politcal spectrum.

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Magna Carta today

Magna Carta today

Explore Magna Carta’s place in the modern world and its influence on law, popular culture and human rights.

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Collection items

Examine a range of rich historical sources relating to Magna Carta and its 800 year legacy. Discover unique items, such as an original 1215 Magna Carta, the papal bull that annulled it and Thomas Jefferson's draft of the American Declaration of Independence.

Featured people

Discover the key figures involved with Magna Carta during the 13th century, from monarchs King John and Henry III, to churchmen Pope Innocent III and Archbishop Stephen Langton, to barons William Marshal and Robert fitz Walter.

Blog posts about Magna Carta

John Wilkes and Magna Carta

23 April 2015

As curators of the British Library's major Magna Carta exhibition, we're often asked how we've managed to bring to life the story of what one British government official, writing in March 1941, described as 'a bit of parchment, of no...

Murder in the Cathedral

16 April 2015

One of the most notorious episodes in medieval English history took place at Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170. During evening vespers, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury and erstwhile friend of King Henry II, was murdered by four of...

Guess the Manuscript With A Difference

12 April 2015

Today we're playing Guess the Manuscript with a difference. Normally you can find the answer on the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts site, but that won't be any help this time round. Instead, the manuscript below is found in our Magna...

Pictures At An Exhibition

10 April 2015

If you've been down to our Magna Carta exhibition, you may have realised that it's not just a show about books and documents. Among the exhibits are no fewer than 20 prints and drawings and 8 paintings, all of which...

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Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy

Magna Carta exhibition paperback

Magna Carta exhibition book

The catalogue of the once-in-a-lifetime British Library exhibition

£25

Magna Carta facsimile print

Magna Carta print

A facsimile of the Magna Carta damaged in the Ashburnham fire of 1731

from £17.50

Magna Carta bag

Magna Carta tote bag

Tote bag, with lettering in an illuminated script, made from light-weight cotton

£3