Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Magna Carta Manifesto

A recent British Library poll revealed that nearly half the UK population (45%) don't know what Magna Carta is. The ancient charter dating from 1215 set limits to the arbitary rule of the King - although its concerns were those of the powerful barons, rather than of the unfree peasantry. The poll was commissioned by the British Library to accompany launch of the Library's new Magna Carta website and forthcoming exhibition: Taking Liberties: the Struggle for British Freedom and Rights which will run from 31 October 2008 to 1 March 2009.

Just published is a new book from Peter Linebaugh, that uses Magna Carta to explore "the current state of liberty and show how longstanding restraints against tyranny–and the rights of habeas corpus, trial by jury, and due process of law, and the prohibition of torture–are being abridged."

Linebaugh draws on primary sources to construct a history of the Great Charter and its little-known companion, the Charter of the Forest, which was created at the same time to protect the subsistence rights of the poor. "In providing a sweeping history of Magna Carta, the source of these protections since 1215, this powerful book demonstrates how these ancient rights are repeatedly laid aside when the greed of privatization, the lust for power, and the ambition of empire seize a state."

The Magna Carta Manifesto is published by the University of California Press. Peter Linebaugh is also author of The London Hanged, and co-author of the award winning The Many Headed Hydra.

British Library website

The Magna Carta Manifesto: