Monday, 27 July 2015
Magna Carta Exhibition at the British Library
The British Library is running an exhibition from 1 March to 1 September this year called Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy. I had the chance to visit it last week.
I’ve never been to the British Library, so it was quite an experience. There were a couple of hiccups: they searched my bag and I had to throw away my bottle of water, so I was really thirsty; and I couldn’t find a sign banning photographs, but when I took some I was told off!
I did manage to get a shot of this thirteenth century sword, which was double edged and has an inscription no one can make sense of.
The exhibition tells the story of how Magna Carta came about, how it was reissued several times in different forms, and tracks its legacy through the centuries since. The first part is covered by my book The Magna Carta Story, which tells the story in an accessible way, including what it actually said.
I was very impressed by an animated graphic (which I couldn’t get a picture of) showing a multi-coloured wheel with a spoke for every clause. As the time moved on and the charter was reissued, the spokes dropped from the wheel to show how it was amended. When the forestry clauses were written in a separate little charter, this was shown by another, smaller wheel. This is the point where Magna Carta got its name, the great charter.
The most interesting part for me was being able to see actual historical documents on display, like:
Articles of the Barons (the precursor to Magna Carta)
Magna Carta 1215
English Bill of Rights (based on Magna Carta)
American Declaration of Independence (based on Magna Carta)
We went into the gift shop afterwards and found this unintentional joke. Considering John was such a bad king: