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Jul 29

The 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta: Its Enduring Legacy – 1215-2015

Magna Carta – the Great Charter – is one of the foundational documents in Anglo-American legal history. Ironically, it began, not as a statement of principle, like our Declaration of Independence, but as a peace treaty. Signed on June 15, 1215, in a field at Runnymede, England, Magna Carta sought to end the barons’ rebellion against King John by forcing the crown to adhere to the laws and customs of the realm. Magna Carta was initially thought to be a failure because King John repudiated the treaty almost before the ink was dry. But time has been good to the Great Charter. In fact, it is difficult to overstate the importance of Magna Carta in the development of Anglo-American law. English law treats it as “the Bible of the English Constitution.”

The American Framers used the phrases “the law of the land” or “due process of law” in numerous important contemporary legal documents, including statutes passed by colonial assemblies, resolutions enacted by the Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence, and state constitutions. Magna Carta has come to stand as proof that a written document can make important revisions to the law, fend off tyrannical government officials, restrain even the sovereign’s power, and grant rights to the entire community, not merely to certain favored individuals – an enduring legacy that helped to establish “the rule of law.”

Join us for a special evening with two esteemed historians reflecting on the contributions of the Great Charter from both the British and American perspectives.

More About the Speakers

Offering the British Perspective
The Honorable Daniel Hannan
Member of the European Parliament for the United Kingdom

Offering the American Perspective
A. E. Dick Howard
White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs, University of Virginia School of Law

Hosted By

Paul Larkin Paul Larkin

Senior Legal Research Fellow Read More