Post-classical history

Magna Carta (Penguin Classics)

Magna Carta (Penguin Classics)

"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land."

Magna Carta, forced on King John in 1215 by rebellion, is one of the most famous documents in world history. It asserts a fundamental principle: that the ruler is subject to the law. Alongside a new text and translation of the Charter, David Carpenter's commentary draws on new discoveries to give an entirely fresh account of Magna Carta's text, origins, survival and enforcement, showing how it quickly gained a central place in English political life. It also uses Magna Carta as a lens through which to view thirteenth-century society, focusing on women and peasants as well as barons and knights. The book is a landmark in Magna Carta studies.

2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta's creation - an event which will be marked with exhibitions, commemorations and debates in all the countries over whose constitutions and legal assumptions the shadow of Magna Carta hangs.


Chapter 1. Magna Carta: The Documents

Chapter 2. The Chapters, Contents and Text of Magna Carta

Chapter 3. King John and the Sources for His Reign

Chapter 4. Magna Carta and Society: Women, Peasants, Jews, the Towns and the Church

Chapter 5. Magna Carta and Society: Earls, Barons, Knights and Free Tenants

Chapter 6. Magna Carta and the Structure of Royal Government

Chapter 7. The Rule of the King: John and His Predecessors

Chapter 8. Standards of Judgement

Chapter 9. Resistance, 1212–1215

Chapter 10. The Development of the Opposition Programme

Chapter 11. Runnymede

Chapter 12. The Enforcement and Failure of the Charter

Chapter 13. The Revival of the Charter, 1216–1225

Chapter 14. Did Magna Carta Make a Difference?



Glossary of Terms

Map of the English Counties

Appendix I: King John’s letter announcing the terms of the 1209 Treaty of Norham

Appendix II: The Canterbury Magna Carta

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!