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29 March 2012

Magna Carta set for 21st century treatment

Researchers at King’s College London to collaborate in AHRC funded Magna Carta project.

Image of excerpt from the Magna Carta.
Image of excerpt from the Magna Carta.

Researchers at King’s College London will collaborate in an examination of the 1215 Magna Carta, which will result in the first clause-by-clause commentary on its content in a hundred years. 

The three year project is due for completion to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the pivotal document, which for the first time in English constitutional history asserted the rights of the king's subjects against the crown. 

David Carpenter, Professor in Medieval History at King’s, will work with historians from the Universities of East Anglia, Oxford and Christ Church, Canterbury. They will also work on the first ever commentary on the 1225 Charter, the version that passed into law. 

The £910,000 project will see the team scouring over 300 archives in the UK and abroad, and investigating who wrote the manuscript, whether the clauses were obeyed and the document’s role in marking a watershed between a lawless and lawful government. They will also analyse its continued significance in the 21st century. 

Previous studies have focused on specific aspects of the Magna Carta and its history. The result of this project will be the first complete commentary on the text, which will be available in an online database of commentary, images, translations and research findings.  At the University of East Anglia, where the project is based, Nicholas Vincent (Principal Investigator) and Hugh Doherty (a former King’s student), will collect all the original charters and letters of King John, throwing entirely new light on the making and meaning of the Charter.  

Professor Carpenter said: 'Magna Carta enshrined the fundamental principle that the ruler was subject to the law. This project brings together members of the teams who worked on the Henry III Fine Rolls Project at King’s and the University of East Anglia’s Henry II Acta project, which assembled all the original charters and letters of the 12th century King. This project will hugely increase public understanding of this greatest of all constitutional documents.' 

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).