The contingent roots of ancient liberties

magnaIn Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty, author Dan Jones contends that the great charter was an unwanted child born of circumstance. England in 1215 was disarray.  King Richard Lionheart, had drained the treasury in his middle eastern wars and alienated his barons.  When his brother John came to the throne, he was in a weakened position, made worse by the loss of his family’s ancestral lands in a war with France.   The charter imposed on him by his Barons at Runnymede was merely a peace treaty  “extracted in bad faith from a reluctant king” (after the signing, both sides immediately resumed their civil war).   But the idea of a charter based on “ancient liberties” caught on.  Future kings found it necessary to pay lip service to the charter.  The legend of the charter came to carry a symbolic weight far more important that document itself.  In time, those  “ancient rights’ would be claimed by Americans in their Declaration of Independence.   This is an “insightful, satisfying history (Kirkus Reviews).”   Magna Carta was purchased with funds from the Meredith Village Savings Bank.

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