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University of London International Programmes

Freedom and protest: Magna Carta and its legacies

University of London International Programmes via Coursera

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In 1215, King John sealed Magna Carta by the Thames at Runnymede in Surrey, a charter between the monarch and his Barons placing limits on his power over freeborn men in the kingdom. Magna Carta enshrined the principle that all people should be bound by the rule of law, including the monarch, and that the processes of justice must be applied to all. Many political thinkers have celebrated Magna Carta as the first example of a bill of rights, an ancient constitution. 

This introductory course, based on a new level 5 course Commemorating the Past that will be offered for the first time in 2015-16, examines the historical roles that Magna Carta has played, and the importance of Magna Carta today. Members of the History Department at Royal Holloway, a college of the University of London, will deliver the course. In addition to the lectures with an explicit historical focus, the lectures in week fours and five will explore the continuing international significance of Magna Carta, and of Runnymede, through video segments produced by lecturers in the Geography Department and the Politics and International Relations Department. 


Week 1

Magna Carta, Parliament and the Law 1215-1300 (Lecturers: Nigel Saul and Jonathan Phillips)

Learning outcome: to set the scene for studying Magna Carta; to show how Magna Carta became embedded in practice in England

Week 2

The reinvention of Magna Carta, 1508-1642 (Lecturer: Justin Champion)

Learning outcomes: to understand how the significance of  the Magna Carta was reinvented in the context of the conflict between monarchy and parliament; to explore the use of Magna Carta in political cartoons

Week 3

The Whig Ancient Constitution, 1642-1776 (Lecturer: Justin Champion)

Learning Outcomes: to understand, and examine, how the ‘idea’ rather than the ‘event’ of Magna Carta became used by conservative and radical political groups; to understand the export of the tradition of Magna Carta into the American colonies

Week 4

Magna Carta and the wider world: constitution making (Lecturer: Emm Johnstone with others)

Learning outcomes include: to understand the significance of Magna Carta and its ideals in the establishment of constitutions and bills of human rights over the past two centuries

Week 5

Public history: memorialisation and memorials (Lecturer: Graham Smith and others)

Learning outcomes include examining the purposes of commemoration in modern society.

Week 6

Magna Carta: A History of an Argument c.1800-2015 (Lecturer: Graham Smith)

Learning outcomes include: to appreciate the complex and contested uses of Magna Carta in contemporary debates about human rights and the rule of law. 

Taught by

Emm Johnstone, Graham Smith, Justin Champion, Nigel Saul and Jonathan Phillips


3.5 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Freedom and protest: Magna Carta and its legacies

  • Anonymous
    Mixed. Started very well, then disintegrated. Some of the presenters were brilliant, others were almost unintelligible. Felt like an effort to pad the course with irrelevant asides. I was completely engaged for a while, then irritated, and finally just gave up.

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