Click here to skip to content

Taking Liberties blog index

What some of the world's bloggers have said about the exhibition, which ran from 31 October 2008 to 1 March 2009. The selection below represents every blog entry we could find which expressed a visitor's opinion, whether good or bad. It's almost all good!

Striking a good balance

"An interesting interactive element... struck me as a good way to balance increased engagement with privacy concerns. That particular technical innovation is something worth exploring in other contexts."
Bruce Harpham on the Curious View of the World blog (16 Mar 2009)
Read blog

Virtual exhibition carries on

"There’s still an online exhibition... I found this format particularly powerful to present multidisciplinary perspectives and also to create opportunities (public venues?) for people to learn, experience, reflect and express themselves."
Alf writing on the building_space_with_words blog (11 Mar 2009)
Read blog

Hub of activity

Sameer Padania of The Hub also enjoyed the interactive and curator's blog (28 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Height of absurdity

"I left dissatisfied but then fate, or rather the Metropolitan police, intervened to provide a living supplement to the exhibition. Within eight paces of the entrance to Taking Liberties two officers, a man and woman, had stationed themselves inside the library and without the slightest sense of irony or trespass were stopping people to ask their names, contact details and height under terror laws."
Henry Porter of the Guardian is up in arms (26 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Pleasure principle

"The message is clear: our rights came at a cost. Do not readily toss them on one side"
Sybarite took particular pleasure in two items (25 Feb 2009)
Read blog


"Marvellous... extraordinary... unmissable!"
Doublethink was not in two minds (23 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Full Marx

"You don’t need to have a Marxist understanding of the State to recognise that there’s a gaping hole of analysis in this exhibition. It is a timely exhibition reminding people who may take all this for granted (and currently NL seem to be desperate in eroding our civil liberties). It is good to remind people that freedoms and rights have been hard fought, against, usually a climate of hostility, repression and violence orchestrated by the State."
Harpymarx gave a considered view from the left (23 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Shiny blandness

"Tedious waste of space... Only the worthy will respond"
Jon's place thought we should have concentrated more on controversies such as the Jyllands-Posten cartoons (22 Feb 2009)
Read blog

In the pink

"Very interesting interactive"
Shmead No 1 enjoyed the online exhibition (21 Feb 2009)
Read blog

So good I nearly voted twice

"Kudos to whoever curated this and wrote the accompanying copy for making all the exhibits relentlessly relevant to today. It worked... Like the best adverts, the entire setup was designed to seize you and force you take a stance on what you saw. Everyone gets a wristband which they scan at various terminals, at which point they have the opportunity to 'vote' on various issues. This had the beautiful Huxleyan side-effect of reducing the individual to a number... Best of all, these responses were aggregated in real-time, and available to view at a final, big-screen terminal at the end of the exhibition. The results were presented in a visually pleasing, almost artistic way, and almost made me go back in to vote for what I missed, which has to be a first for an exhibition..."
Interested in people was very interested in the exhibition, too (21 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Not so much liberty then

"One of the many things I learned of during this trip is the appalling treatment of Jews in England around the 12th century"
Riz Din raised the York question too (21 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Someone with class

"I’m really glad that my communications class has made me see this exhibit. Plus it gave me a good excuse to check out the British Library. AMAZING"
Jodester87 enjoyed the interactive too (20 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Muse property

"Fantastic... fascinating"
Andrew's musings reflected on a day at St Pancras (18 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Mooning about

"Much less of a microcosm even than one might expect... it would seem that those voting in an exhibition on human rights are a whole load of lefties"
Objectif lune fitted us in before eating a lot of sushi (12 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Nagging away

"It largely covered what I had imagined what I would see - Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, American Declaration of Independence, suffragettes and so on. However there is a nagging problem with exhibition..."
Meaumeau wasn't convinced (11 Feb 2009)
Read blog

Officers' mess

"I revisited... this time with a group of my special subject students.... Looking round it for the second time, I noticed things I’d missed during my first, quick, reconnoitre. One of those things is Egerton MS 1048 f. 91-92. This is an MS copy of the so-called ‘Officers’ Agreement’, the form of the Agreement of the People presented to the Rump Parliament by the Council of Officers in January 1649..."
Edward Vallance had his expert eye intrigued (30 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Look here

"Highly praised... well worth a look"
The National Secular Society contributed to our video, too (30 Jan 2009)
Read blog


"I was impressed with what I saw... fascinating"
Guy Osborn also enjoyed the interactive (30 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Out of the box

"Marvellous... go see it!"
Sam Crawley's Little Box on the Web promises a full report soon, too (28 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Educational message

"Excellent... busy with people of all ages... Also, although I feel I've learnt a lot, I didn't have to provide evidence of my learning on my exit to justify the public funding of this national / international institution"
WEA Education gave us feedback in a better way than customer surveys (28 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Grrl talk

"Great for bringing the big issues in to focus on a personal level... really well put together interactive"
Warriorgrrl also supplies a thought-provoking photo (27 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Do not pass go

"I started to ask myself, 'would I be willing to go to jail for my rights?' If ever my right to vote were revoked, I would like to believe I would"
Alison Powell was fascinated by the women's rights section (26 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Wide receivers

"Worth catching"
3 guys on a London bus's wide tastes also recommend Chinese New Year, Franz Ferdinand, Dutilleux, and the Superbowl (25 Jan 2009)
Read blog

All colours of the spectrum

"Bloody good overview... I could easily have spent three or four hours in there"
Diffrentcolours fitted a visit in to a hectic and varied day (24 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Taking Liberties by bicycle

"Visiting by bike is the best way to enjoy the psychogeography of these sites and their contribution to history. So I've put some of my favourite Taking Liberties sites on this Google map, and sketched out a suggested cycle route to thread them together"
Real Cycling (by this website's editor) has devised a London cycle tour to accompany the exhibition (21 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Blow for freedom

"Excellent... it is useful to be reminded how the struggle to achieve the liberties we take for granted have had to be fought for and the sacrifices that were made to achieve them"
Pak's Bugle issues a wake-up call (18 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Putting the cross in King's Cross

"Fascinating... eye-opening... I came out of the exhibition profoundly grateful, and very angry"
Make wealth history enjoyed the visit, though (18 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Time and emotion study

"Brilliant... amazing... probably the best crafted museum display that I have been through on this trip so far. It was set up in a logical manner, that was easy to follow, and the choice of displays actually was able to extract some emotion from me. Particularly when it was showing the struggles people have had to go through just to get basic human rights, through the actual documents that denied/finally granted them those rights."
Casa will go back home with some good impressions (17 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Thou shalt not have thine own opinion?

"I spent a few hours in their superb Taking Liberties exhibition which had a section on the clash between religious belief and freedom of speech. I then went upstairs to see their collection of early Bibles, Korans and Torahs, one of the best collections of early books in the world. It set me thinking..."
Donald Clark discusses religious education and free thinking (9 Jan 2009)
Read blog

A packet of flags

"The exhibition was up to the usual excellent standard. I particularly liked the early sketches for the design of the Union Flag after the Act of Union. They were all highly crap and not a patch on the Butcher's Apron that we all know and love today"
thedavidx raises the standard (7 Jan 2009)
Read blog

A review from Facebook

"I guarantee you will be drawn in and fascinated... One of the best features about this exhibition has to be the interactive 'Where do you stand'... an excellent exhibition, and one which I would definitely recommend"
Amy Drysdale can be our Facebook friend any time (1 Jan 2009)
Read blog

Marks for good handwriting

"Good stuff all around"
Noam Berg was taken with the calligraphy, too (31 Dec 2008)
Read blog

Sparkling stuff

"Very well done, and very interesting. Darcy and I voted together on a single barcode, and it provoked conversations we had never had, probably never would have thought to have unless inspired by news events"
Prosecco life gives us their vote (30 Dec 2008)
Read blog

The best things in life are free (and temporary)

"Exemplary... brilliantly grouped and explained so that visitors are challenged on their own political ideas... and all for free... shame this isn't a permanent exhibition"
Simon Guerrier visits five London exhibits - and guess which he likes most? (30 Dec 2008)
Read blog

If it's Sunday this must be the BL

"Suffice it to say that it was all pretty amazing"
Eric Tilton fitted us into a hectic London sightsee (28 Dec 2008)
Read blog

Observations of high calibre

"Got me thinking... Britain is currently setting a terrible example for civil liberties to the rest of the world... Britons have no right to bear arms despite the pioneering work of the English Bill of Rights"
Kai Hendry shoots from the hip (21 Dec 2008)
Read blog

We don't know either

"Worth going to... pretty good and it was well assembled. Why would you walk through it at breakneck speed, not looking at anything but loudly talking about hospital car-parking fees though, why? Some people..."
It's up for grabs now! thinks free speech can go too far (18 Dec 2008)
Read blog


"Interessante Einblicke in die Geschichte Grossbritanniens... Ach ja, und natürlich gibt’s auch ein Café in der BL"
('Interesting insights into the history of Great Britain... oh yes, of course there's a cafe too!")
The Lonely Librarian ist ein deutscher anglophil (16 Dec 2008)
Read blog

Roots of liberty

"Fantastic... a must-see for all... the website is great... there are also videos and podcasts to download, including a really good one I listened to about Magna Carta"
Lovely Old Tree is clearly a historian of impeccable judgement (13 Dec 2008)
Read blog

Inside every Guardian reader...

"A particularly interesting feature... is the interactive sampling of opinions... Interestingly, people tended to cluster into two fairly distinct groups on most topics; and I was surprised to find myself closer towards the 'caution' and 'control' axes than I would have imagined... It just goes to show that rights and liberties aren't necessarily the same thing, nor always self-evident"
Autolycus, self-confessed 'Guardianista', surprises himself (9 Dec 2008)
Read blog

Video nasty

"The majority of the items on display were truly iconic... In contrast, the video interviews that were scattered around were rather distracting at best (isn't it a library?)..."
Chris Lamb wonders about the nature and purpose of debate (8 Dec 2008)
Read blog

Flock of Stalins

"I highly recommend a visit... Far from us living in a Stalinist state, as some allege, it is the indignant calls to account which prevent us sliding into one"
Robert Sharp wonders about the nature and purpose of debate (8 Dec 2008)
Read blog

How to be rich

"Fabulous... rich and interactive"
Rullsenberg rules includes us in their best-of-London list (7 Dec 2008)
Read blog

Pressing matters

Peter Chasseaud also gives us a picture of Tom Paine's printing press (1 Dec 2008)
Read blog

Be philosophical, don't think about it

"Interesting and important"
Virtual Philosopher Nigel Warburton picks out our podcasts (1 Dec 2008)
Read blog

Buy lines

"I ended my day of geeking out in the British Library shop, trying not to buy everything"
PGH International preferred the Ritblat Gallery, though (29 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Collins publishing

"It is EXCELLENT, anyone in London should definitely try and see it"
Natassia commenting on Andrew Collins's 'Where did it all go right' blog (27 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Paine relief

"Especially good on the ferment of the English Revolution in the mid-17th century... worth visiting"
Around the edges was also interested in the Tom Paine items (27 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Titanic stuff

"Oh! I loved it, absolutely loved it... I wish I could have spent more time there... incredibly well done, and it was just fascinating... the questions may never be settled, but they should always be discussed"
Michele Trichler might as well have been talking about the Beethoven-Mahler concert she saw the next day, though (25 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Human rights and wrongs

"Whilst, in my view, Nick Herbert is mistaken and is pursuing the wrong quarry, he is to be thanked for speaking out and, even if by accident, making us face squarely the embarrassing fact that our constitutional settlement has become a horrid mess"
John Jackson on reflects on the MP's speech on human rights at the Library the previous night (25 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Taking the tiff out of pontificating

"Stuffed full... very well done... fascinating and inspiring... some of those who have been pontificating on the blogosphere recently about the nature of liberalism could well do with a reminder of how we got where we are"
Andy Strange recommends a trip to blogging politicos (25 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Cool pics

"A cool way of discovering the UK law system..."
Muscles UK recorded their visit on a brief Flickr photostream (24 Nov 2008)
See photos

Snooze flash

"Interesting... it wasn't compelling enough for Little Planet, though, as she fell fast asleep as we wandered around reading about the Magna Carta, the women's emancipation movement, and modern-day concepts of human rights"
Planet Halder found a novel way to get the kids to sleep (23 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Urban chic

"Fascinating... Well worth a visit"
Urban75 supplies some nice pics, too (22 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Rainsborough reigns

"What a joy... not only the original Agreement of the People presented by the New Model Army but also the original book of notes of the debate opened to the page of Rainsborough’s great speech. I nearly choked... Well worth a look"
Ian Bone felt that connection with the radicals (20 Nov 2008)
Read blog

It's Thursday so this must be London

"A really cool exhibit... really thought-provoking"
Christine squeezed us in during a whistle-stop tour of the capital (20 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Go test, young man

"Excellent interactive site. I encourage you to give it a go"
Dave Durant approves (13 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Unshivered, but I'll be back

"Incredible to see all those hugely important documents in one room... all in all though ... I didn’t feel The Shiver... perhaps I tried too hard... certainly deserving a second (and third) view though!"
The Historical Shiver didn't quite get the tingle factor (11 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Is this a dagger I see before me on Facebook? Then arrest him

"Bloggers spend much of their time fretting about the state of civil liberties. Now you can too, thanks to the Taking Liberties exhibition... civil liberties in this country are under greater threat than at any time in recent political history. You can’t post a photo of yourself with a sword on a social networking site; the police will arrest you. You can’t protest in Canary Wharf, either; the police will, yep, you guessed it..."
Mr Eugenides tries to hold back his rage in his excellent blog round-up (10 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Get down there, chop-chop

"Well worth a look. It's a thought-provoking reminder that our freedoms are pretty contingent things which we have to safeguard ourselves"
Leuconoe recommends it - especially Charles I's death warrant (8 Nov 2008)
Read blog

BL = MI5?

"A spectacular example of great museum exhibition design and pedagogy... Of course, th'girlfriend and myself were both convinced that there was a secret camera taking our photos each time we voted and storing evidence of our subversive tendencies in a big database out there somewhere. Joke. But not such a joke when we saw that the wristbands exhorted us to log onto the exhibition website when we got home and enter our barcode numbers... paranoid? Nous?"
Morag's Eyrie thinks we could be that organised: probably a compliment (3 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Season tickets available

"Really something special: to see those documents in one place for the first time is awe-inspiring. I strongly advise you see it, if you haven't already – and that you see it again if you have. I have been three times, and am still finding new things to be amazed at"
Claire Coatman can't get enough (3 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Teachers take note

"A wonderful venue for exhibitions, and this is a striking example of the wealth of resource available from them... do go if you get chance, and take a group from school - I'm sure they will gain a great deal from it"
Tricia Adams of the School Library Association was impressed (2 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Breath of Ayr

"It was especially good to see items like Charles I's death warrant and, showing my local loyalties, the Ayr manuscript"
Anne Welsh brought some local knowledge (2 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Level headed... not

"We'd... booked to see Mark and Simon from the Levellers perform at the British Library... We happened to be getting in some pre-gig drinks in at O'Neills across the road and saw them both in there and had a very nice chat with both of them, although the three pints of cider I drank meant that I was somewhat gushing in my assessment of them much to their embarrassment!"
Somethingnew wishes his free speech hadn't quite been so free (2 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Fighting peer pressure

"Impressive... some interesting details about the fight for democratic rights (and it was a fight - the whole 'mother of democracy' thing is self-aggrandising rubbish, with real rights for ordinary people having to be torn from the hands of royalty and peers)"
Morticutor thought it was a bit 1984ish, too (2 Nov 2008)
Read blog

Just another day at the Library

"The drunk guy, blood pouring from his head, was out cold or dead in the middle of the road. A few guys attended to him while I went to the motorcycle guy on the pavement. I waited for the police gave my statement then went to check if my bag was still at that cafe. It wasn't"
Lemn Sissay's eventful evening after hosting the Library's opening party (31 Oct 2008)
Read blog

The unacceptable face of opposition

"It's a genuinely impressive collection of stuff... the main message... is how long and hard the fight has been to get us the rights we enjoy today. Every positive change that has been won in the past 900 years has been won in the face of opposition from the people in control of our society "
Shaved Ape thought the exhibition very timely (31 Oct 2008)
Read blog

The writing's on the wall – shame it's so hard to read

"I went to see alone the exhibit and pray in front of the Magna Carta. The reverence I felt in front of that tightly written small text document was immense... deciphering it is unbearable. Yet it wields a mystical power as the fountain of the Rights of Man. The first Human Rights Accord. The Bible of Humanism"
The Bleeding Edge says we need Magna Carta more than ever (31 Oct 2008)
Read blog

You're the Pitts

"I hope it will prompt those who visit over the coming weeks to understand how much we are losing and how fast. The speed would have astonished even those who lived through William Pitt the Younger's campaign against freedom and constitutional rights in the 1790s"
Henry Porter of the Guardian is sounding worried (31 Oct 2008)
Read blog

Red versus blue, and Brown

"This is, all in all, the perfect time for such a display, and its raising of questions, and attempts to initiate debate. Let us all take it in the spirit it is intended"
Secret Person thinks left and right are getting blurred (31 Oct 2008)
Read blog

Waiting for Gordo

"A group of the motley great and goodish waited patiently in the sweeping British Library foyer last night for the official opening of the Taking Liberties exhibition by the Prime Minister - who was delayed because he had to see the Queen. The symbolism of this I leave to the reader..."
Anthony Barnett thinks a change of culture is on the way (30 Oct 2008)
Read blog

A 'grumpy historian' writes

"I still don't like the posters, but, hey, they've certainly provoked debate. Whatever my remaining reservations about the publicity, the range of documents on show, and the breadth of themes addressed, make this a very important and timely exhibition"
Edward Vallance softened after a private view (11 Oct 2008)
Read blog

Avoiding the cake police

"It's also worth remembering that freedom isn't just about not being wrongfully arrested. It's also about being able to bake a cake for the local old folks' home without having your kitchen inspected by Health and Safety"
Heresy Corner has no time for half-baked arguments (18 Aug 2008)
Read blog

Facebook, Twitter

Follow the British Library for news, offers, features, more

Facebook fan page
Twitter feed

Online shop

Books, cards, mugs, CDs, videos, fridge magnets – buy now online