Legacy

As a powerful symbol of liberty, right and justice, Magna Carta has been used by a wide variety of people in the struggle for rights and justice. From Suffragettes and fascists to radicals and imperialists, and from leaders such as Winston Churchill to activists such as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, find out how this medieval document became such a powerful political symbol.

Magna Carta timeline

Timeline of Magna Carta and its legacy

Stretching from 979 to 2015, this simple timeline charts the key events leading up to the declaration of Magna Carta in 1215, and explores the legacy of the document up to the present day.

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Magna Carta in colonial America

Early America and Magna Carta

Article by:
Matthew Shaw

From the early colony of Pennsylvania, to the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, Curator Dr Matthew Shaw reveals the influence of Magna Carta as a symbol of liberty in early America.

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Magna Carta in modern America

Modern America and Magna Carta

Article by:
Matthew Shaw

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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Empire and after

Empire and after

Article by:
Zoë Laidlaw

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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Radicalism and reform

Radicalism and suffrage

Article by:
Alex Lock

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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Magna Carta in the modern age

Magna Carta in the 20th century

Article by:
Alex Lock

Throughout the 20th century, Magna Carta inspired figures across the political spectrum, from suffragists and fascists to those drafting human rights legislation. Dr Alexander Lock explores the charter’s relationship to the Second World War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and modern America.

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Further themes

Medieval origins

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

Clauses and content

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

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.

Magna Carta today

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