November 30, 2015

Simon Chesterman On the Myth of Magna Carta

Simon Chesterman, National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law, has published The Myth of Magna Carta — Or, How a Failed Peace Treaty with French Aristocrats Was Reinvented as the Foundation of English (and American) Liberty. Here is the abstract.
Magna Carta bears an iconic status in legal history. Signed eight centuries ago by King John at Runnymede, near Windsor, it laid the foundations for constraints on arbitrary power — the basis for the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. The only problem with the historical account is that almost none of it is true. The agreement at Runnymede was not a constitutional document intended to limit power but a peace treaty to preserve the King’s rule. Despite many paintings and a commemorative £2 coin showing him holding Magna Carta and a quill, King John never signed it. Oh, and it was not called Magna Carta.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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