Farther afield: The Magna Carta turns 800

Editorial Staff Magazine

A dedicated website (magnacarta 800th.com) showcases the exhibitions, tours, and special events across the U.K. this season in celebration of the eight hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. The British Library’s exhibition provides the most penetrating inquiry into this historic document and displays the two manuscript copies of 1215 conserved there. The show places them into context with objects, art, manuscripts, and even royal remains that conjure the showdown between King John and the barons on the field of Runnymede.

It also explores the far-reaching ways that this seminal defense of the law has held through ensuing centuries. The exhibition includes a copy of the English Bill of Rights as well as Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Delaware copy of the U.S. Bill of Rights. It also features documents by Churchill, Gandhi, and Mandela that have directly referenced the Magna Carta and highlights movements such as women’s suffrage that have taken cues from it.

In addition, the British Library has filmed a series of interviews with leading politicians and experts who speak to the meaning of the Magna Carta today. A page on the library’s website (bl.uk/ magna-carta) provides links to digitized collections and other teaching resources.

Top: The first known portrait of King John, artist unknown, c. 1620. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Above: Detail of genealogical chronicle of King John’s ancestry. Photograph © British Library.

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy • British Library, London • to September 1