Magna Carta in 20 Places

Magna Carta in 20 Places

Derek J. Taylor

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0750962291

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The only book to tell Magna Carta’s story through places associated with it, through England and France to the United States

The Magna Carta has undergone an extraordinary journey from the palaces and villages of England, through the castles and towns of France, via the Middle East, and ending in the United States today. Along the way, the book dispels the popular notions that King John was an unredeemed tyrant, the baron’s champions of civil liberty, and that Magna Carta was the foundation of democracy and universal freedom. The true story is much more intriguing than a simple fiction of good defeating evil, and the author tries to answer one of the great mysteries about the Charter: why today is it much more enthusiastically revered in America than it is in the country of its origin? But myths can be powerful. And the account of how this largely technical medieval document became an inspiration to those who have struggled over centuries to win democracy and freedom under the law reveals a great deal about our need for symbols and our inclination to believe what we want to believe.

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rain of missiles, we somehow have to smash through the 40-foot-high tower or through the curtain wall, which runs – inconveniently for us – alongside a steep drop. Today we can step around the jagged remains of the tower, but then have to imagine ourselves trapped in a courtyard, within range of more bowmen above, only this time on both flanks. For the defenders, killing us would be like shooting fish in a barrel. If we succeed in fighting our way across the open space, we then face a deep moat.

guild. If you were in the thirteenth-century transport and distribution business, you needed to be a member of the guild of porters, carters, farriers or ostlers. Among the skilled makers of things, such as turners, coopers and potters, who each had their own guild, the most famous of all were the goldsmiths’, though we shouldn’t forget the guilds of the parchment-makers and of the soap-makers. More surprising is that preachers had their own guild, and so did leeches – i.e. doctors, so named

years had rocked the system. Both sides had challenged the other’s feudal status. Magna Carta can be understood only in the context of the violent swings in the balance of power between monarchy and baronage during the reigns of John’s immediate predecessors. And in the middle of the twelfth century, sixty years before John came to the throne, the man who called himself king was distracted by civil war and frankly was not very bright. A weak king was an opportunity for barons to feather their

European accents I hear outside the Three Horseshoes pub. Vegetable pickers from Poland, Romania or Bulgaria, I guess. At the end of the High Street, around and beyond the church, however, it’s a different tale. Several grand mansions look out on to Church Green, where mallards are pottering about on the pond and shaking themselves beneath its fountain. Across the road by a broad gateway a sign announces ‘Abbey College’ within, and warns us against entering unless authorised. The original abbey

was suspicious to the point of paranoia. He regarded those who should have been his right-hand men – i.e. the mighty barons of his realm – as potential enemies. Instead he relied on foreign, low-born mercenary soldiers, who were without land or title and so were in his power. 4.  He was grasping and greedy. He ignored traditional feudal obligations and demanded ever heavier taxes from the great families of England to support his military adventures. And he used and abused the machinery of royal

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