Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cool Magna Carta Images

A copy of the Magna Carta* is going on the auction block. The NYTimes article on the subject has a nice image of the manuscript, as well as a really, really, cool interactive view of the whole document. If you do only one thing today, take a look at that interactive view! For those who want more, here's the text of the Magna Carta translated into English.

One thing I've always liked about the Magna Carta is that it is one of the popularly-known bits of medievalia that contradicts the "Dark Ages" view of the medieval. For example, Wikipedia, which is a great barometer of conventional wisdom, describes the Magna Carta as "the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today." What? In The Lion in Winter, Eleanor of Aquitane exclaims, "It's 1183 and we're barbarians!" How could it be possible that these barbarians wrote the Magna Carta in 1215? Could it be that perhaps medievals weren't as barbarous as moderns like to believe?

So, here's my suggestion for bribery: Any student who buys me this copy of the Magna Carta will get an automatic "A" in my medieval literature course. What with financial aid and part-time jobs, at least one of them ought to be able to scrape together the estimated $30 million.

*I remember Perot buying the Magna Carta -- and I'm surprised to read that it was back in 1984. I'm gettin' old.


  1. What I love about that moment in Lion in Winter (which is my favorite movie ever) is how Eleanor goes on from there:

    It's 1183 and we're barbarians. How clear we make it. Oh, my piglets, we are the origins of war: not history's forces, nor the times, nor justice, nor the lack of it, nor causes, nor religions, nor ideas, nor kinds of government, nor any other thing. We are the killers. We breed wars. We carry it like syphilis inside. Dead bodies rot in field and stream because the living ones are rotten. For the love of God, can't we love one another just a little - that's how peace begins. We have so much to love each other for.

    That's the moment where I have to ask the converse of your question -- is it that the medievals weren't as barbarous as moderns like to believe? Or is it that the moderns aren't really all that different.


  2. Back then they had a clear understanding of the importance of habeas corpus.

  3. Anonymous1:47 PM

    Yeah, I also thought that line from "Lion in Winter," especially as delivered by Katherine Hepburn, was meant to be ironic and a bit of a joke.