The Great Charter

BBC News: Charting out the Magna Carta.

The latest chapter in the history of the Magna Carta is the sale of one example of it, sealed by King Edward I and dating from 1297, which has been sold at Sotheby’s in New York for £10.6m ($21.3m). It came into being as the result of a dispute between King John, English barons and the political community of the kingdom, and went some way towards limiting the authority of the king. The first was sealed in 1215, and not signed as is often thought, by King John at Runnymede. The final one was issued in 1300. This has led to 17 surviving versions from the 13th Century, including the one sold at Sotheby’s.

The original set of rulings still have some resonance in modern-day English law, as they contain the principle of Habeas Corpus, which protects people against unlawful imprisonment. Also, the right of trial by jury can be traced back to the Magna Carta. And it is a document that was much studied and revered in the United States several centuries ago, as that nation fought for its independence from Britain.

I didn’t know the American founders were so interested in it! The article mentions Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln both studying the Magna Carta. How many of our documents will still be around in seven hundred years time? With changing data formats, we’re lucky to manage a mere decade in electronic format.