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. Or discover 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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    My Digital Rights

    My digital rights

    Debate your digital rights and discover our Magna Carta for the digital age

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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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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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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


Saturday, January 26, 2019

The British Library holds the world’s largest collection of Anglo-Saxon charters, wills and letters, over 200 of which have recently been added to our Digitised Manuscripts site. An impressive selection of these charters are also currently on display in our...

Cotton manuscripts quiz

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Last week we announced that the manuscript collection of Sir Robert Cotton, held at the British Library, has been added to the UNESCO Memory of the World UK Register. To celebrate, we've decided to test our readers' knowledge of the...

Happy birthday, Statute of Marlborough!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Earlier this month, we celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Forest Charter, Magna Carta’s little sibling. It inspired a new Tree Charter, with accompanying events ranging from bike rides to pole launches. Today, we commemorate the Statute of Marlborough. At...

Job vacancy to work with digital images

Friday, October 13, 2017

The British Library is recruiting for a Project Officer to work on The Polonsky Foundation England and France Project: Manuscripts from the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, 700-1200. This is a full-time, fixed term position, for nine...

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Magna Carta exhibition paperback

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy (paperback)

Catalogue supporting the British Library's magnificent Magna Carta celebration exhibition


magna carta tie

Magna Carta Silk Tie

Splendid silk tie with facsimile detail


Magna Quacka

Magna Quacka Rubber Duck

Our exclusive Magna Quacka rubber duck is sure to add some cultural contemplation to your bath time