The Magna Carta reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Magna Carta

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Magna Carta ("the Great Charter") is the fundamental English charter, which limited the power of King John. It was negotiated in the meadow at Runnymede on June 15, 1215. It was written in Latin.

Magna Carta guaranteed English political liberties and contained clauses providing for a church free from domination by the monarchy, reforming law and justice, and controlling the behavior of royal officials. English barons demanded the king agree to the charter, as they were upset concerning his abuse of royal power.

A large part of Magna Carta was copied, (nearly word for word), from The Charter of Liberties of Henry I, which granted civil liberties to the English nobility.

Magna Carta

Magna Carta was not considered a particularly important document during the medieval period, during which the power of the English crown grew. Indeed, in his historical play King John, William Shakespeare did not mention Magna Carta. However, Magna Carta became increasingly important in the 17th century as the conflict between the crown and parliament grew. As English society continued to grow and develop, Magna Carta was repeatedly revised, guaranteeing greater rights to greater numbers of people, thus setting the stage for the British Constitutional monarchy.

Many later attempts to draft constitutional forms of government, including the United States Constitution, trace their lineage back to this source document. Numerous copies were made each time it was issued, so all of the participants would each have one. Several of those still exist and some are on permanent display.

Magna Carta is still part of English Law. However, the only part that has not been repealed or superceded are the introductory sentences, so it has no practical use and is retained only because it has been such an important historical document. Despite this, it is still used in arguments about reform of the jury system.

In 1984, Ross Perot bought one of the original copies of Magna Carta. This is the only copy to leave the United Kingdom. It is now on loan to the National Archives in Washington, D.C, where it is on display with the American Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution.

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