2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the United Kingdom will celebrate the occasion with numerous events and exhibitions throughout the country over the coming months.
What was initially an attempt for the unpopular King John to avoid civil war in 1215, the Great Charter has become the foundation of the British legal system still used today. It established the principle that absolutely no-one was above the law, and most famously it gave all “free men” the right to a fair trial and justice. The term “free man” was however loosely used in the early years of the Magna Carta, as it excluded the peasants, who had to seek justice through the Lords.
Even though only three of the original 63 clauses are still in force today, the main principles of the document have filtered through the ages.
The anniversary will be marked with much fanfare. For the first time in history, the four remaining copies will be united on display at the British Library. The institution will host a Magna Carta exhibition opening March 13, exploring the history and significance of the document. Artist Cornelia Parker has been commissioned to create artwork to mark the 800th anniversary.
In the 800 years since the signing of the Great Charter, the document has become a symbol of liberty and the rule of law.
It’s widely recognised as one of the most important legal documents in developing modern democracy and inspired well known documents including the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Despite the fact that the original document’s purpose was to control a problematic king, its reinterpretation over the years has helped maintain its importance and its influence on the liberty debate today.
Image by ChrisGoldNY via Flickr