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English for Lawyers Classes

What is The Magna Carta?

A group of teachers and students from Legal English Online Courses travelled to Runnymede in Surrey to the home of the Magna Carta. In this post, we explore why it is to important to lawyers and jurists around the world.

The Magna Carta (Latin for The Great Charter) is one of the most important legal documents in history. It was signed in Runnymede in the south of England and you can see the original documents at various locations around the UK including The British Library.

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What did it say?

The original charter protected the rights of the barons against the villanious King John, protected church rights and promised speedy access to justice for free men. This is important to note as many people in the 13th century were slaves to the landowners and were not free men.

As with much of English law, it was reinterpreted to cover the protection of personal liberties and it is believed to have influenced the formation of the United States constitution in 1787. If you watch the video below, you will see one of our teachers speaking in front of a monument to The Magna Carta which was sponsored by the American Bar Association.

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The significance

Lord Denning, one of the most famous British judges of recent time, called The Magna Carta " "the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot". American lawyers hold it in great esteem whereas in the UK - where we famously do not have a written constitution - it seems to largely be ignored.

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