Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy
13 March – 1 September 2015
From its medieval origins to modern usage, an exhibition exploring the significance of this monumental 800 year-old document.
The Magna Carta's importance is matched only by the widespread ignorance surrounding its form and content. The Royal Mint issued an 800th anniversary coin showing the charter being signed – in fact it was sealed. David Cameron was lambasted for failing to give chatshow host David Letterman an English translation of the name (it's 'Great Charter'), then pledged to add the Charter to the national curriculum to promote 'social, economic and political freedoms', failing to mention the passages that codified anti-semitism and misogyny.
To mark the Charter's 800th anniversary the British Library is bringing together all four surviving copies for the first time in history, hopefully putting an end to those misconceptions once and for all.
Key documents include two original 1215 Magna Carta manuscripts, the unique ‘draft’ of Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten text of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and an original copy of the US Bill of Rights (1789). Also displayed are government papers proposing to give an original 1215 Magna Carta manuscript to the USA for support in the Second World War.
Teeth, thumb bone and fragments of clothing taken from King John's tomb in 1797 are shown alongside his original will.