Click here to skip to content

Taking Liberties press reviews

Complete list of press and online reviews, and other significant coverage, of the exhibition, which ran from 31 October 2008 to 1 March 2009

Heads will roll

"Charles I's death warrant... is one of the highlights of the library's much-praised exhibition... a reminder of how the rights and freedoms enjoyed in this country have had to be struggled for, sometimes violently. "
The Independent, 31 Jan 2009
Read full review

A lesson for the MPs

"Our MPs should be frogmarched from their ivory tower to inspect this exhibition. They will see how many people, over hundreds of years, fought and died for the freedoms these politicians are so readily and carelessly giving up"
Letter to the Independent, 29 Jan 2009
Read full review

Go east, young man

"One of the most powerful demonstrations of our history and its consequences that you could ever witness... awe-inspiring... Don't take my word for it, go and see for yourself"
David Drew, Stroud News and Journal, 27 Jan 2009
Read full review

Muddle-class society

"A rich and absorbing show, of enormous educational value - every secondary school in the land would benefit from a visit - and full of interesting and revealing titbits and insights. The return of the Jews (expelled in 1190), for example, offers a nice illustration of the English way of muddling through..."
Daniel Nelson,, 19 Dec 2008
Read full review

Pointed comments

"Excellent, often inspiring... Released from overly strict chronological constraints, individual exhibits are given room to breathe... Everywhere you look, famous, history-defining documents abound."
Tim Black, Spiked, 26 Nov 2008
Read full review

Wake-up call

"The exhibition itself is brilliant. People are queuing to see the... myriad pages of paper and ink that have made us who we are and able to sleep soundly in our beds without fear of arbitrary imprisonment without trial. Or so I think. Shami [Chakrabarti] soon puts me right..."
Joan Bakewell, New Statesman, 13 Nov 2008
Read full article

Secret ballots: a charter for the irresponsible

"Of one thing you can be sure: no one will ever be able to connect the opinions you reported [in the exhibition's voting interactive] with the real you... What happens when people are completely free to express their opinions? When there is not only no practicable means of censorship, but also no way of tracing opinions back to the individual who uttered them? This is of course how life is on the internet, as well as at the show at the British Library; and the conclusion is not particularly comforting."
Jonathan Rée, the Guardian, 12 Nov 2008
Read full article

A beginner's (and tabloid editor's) guide to Human Rights

"Britain has made a greater contribution to liberty than any other country, as the current exhibition at the British Library emphasises. It is time that we expressed our rights in the language of Milton and Shakespeare, in precedents we find from the Levellers, John Wilkes, and Tom Paine, and in a remarkable declaration drafted in 1939 by HG Wells, JB Priestly [sic], and AA Milne from Pooh Corner. Then, even editors of the tabloids might understand them."
Geoffrey Robertson, the Guardian, 11 Nov 2008
Read full article

Independent view

"Go see the exhibition at the British Library on liberty, the historical periods when the citizens of this small, plucky island fought and died for basic rights and freedoms. Your eyes will well up. Mine did, as they did at yesterday's remembrance ceremonies."
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the Independent, 10 Nov 2008
Read full review

Spare some change, sir?

"It is striking, as you stroll through history, how much is similar in the campaigns that have won change. The Chartists, the Suffragettes, the civil rights movement and many more did not beg for reform from above - they organised the masses around their charters of demands, using the tools of radical newspapers, pamphlets, posters and protests."
Socialist Worker, 4 November 2008
Read full story

Fight club

"Will inspire visitors to think about what rights and freedoms – or the lack of them – mean in today's world, highlighting the fact that the 1,000-year fight still continues today", 3 November 2008
Read full story

Tony Benn's pick

"An excellent overview of an always relevant topic"
Tony Benn, Sunday Times Culture 'Must sees', 2 November 2008

The relevant in the room

"Innovative... highly attractive... When you look at an early version of the Magna Carta, with the debate over 42 days detention echoing in your ears from a nearby screen, then this is a genuine, unmistakable case of history being relevant to today.", 29 October 2008
Read full review

Knower's arc

"This is a great exhibition, really well told, well put together. It has a narrative arc, and it just has such riches within it - I can't say it enough really: if you're interested in history, if you're interested in the discussion of British liberties, you've got to get down to the British Library. Whether it's the Petition of Right, whether it's the suffragette diaries, whether it's the Hogarth prints... it's just a plethora of historical constitutional riches. It's a very sophisticated, but also accessible exhibition. You come away with the wonder, and you can wallow in it, and be challenged by it..."
Tristram Hunt, BBC Radio 4 Front Row, 29 October 2008

Right feat

"Mounting an engaging exhibition tracing the history of political and personal rights in Britain is no mean feat... iconic documents are beautifully presented", 29 October 2008
Read full review

Drop everything and go

"Cancel every school trip; abandon every civics class; relocate every citizenship ceremony: anyone interested in the history and meaning of British liberties needs to head to the British Library in London. For the first time, our constitution is on show"
Tristram Hunt, the Guardian, 30 October 2008
Read full review

Not just principles, but people too

"A treasure trove... should serve to remind us never to be complacent about our freedoms, which were paid for with the blood and suffering of people..."
Shami Chakrabarti, New Statesman, 16 October 2008
Read full review

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