The First Century of the Magna Carta: the diffusion of texts and their use and citation by litigants, lawyers and justices, 1215-1315

Free Public Lecture

The First Century of the Magna Carta: the diffusion of texts and their use and citation by litigants, lawyers and justices, 1215-1315

Derham Lecture Theatre
Melbourne Law School

185 Pelham Street, Carlton

Booking not required

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Melbourne Law School

Magna Carta was publicised in 1215 through the multiplication of official copies for sending out to the localities and through oral proclamation locally. A similar process occurred when it was later reissued in an amended form in 1216, 1217 and 1225 and on multiple other occasions down to the early fourteenth century. Side by side with these official texts, however, there is also evidence in the thirteenth century of increasing numbers of unofficial private texts of Magna Carta copied into rolls and books of statutes. Many of these were probably made for the use of lawyers and justices. During the same period Magna Carta was also translated into French and a summary version of it compiled, perhaps for ready reference. Litigants and their lawyers were able to utilise specific provisions of Magna Carta both by bringing legal actions initiated by writs citing its provisions and through citing those provisions in the course of litigation and we also find royal justices citing Magna Carta in rendering their judgments. In a way Magna Carta became part of the fabric of the developing English Common Law.

To celebrate the 800th anniversary of this iconic document, the Melbourne Law School welcomes one of the world’s most distinguished experts in medieval legal history, Professor Paul Brand.

Professor Paul Brand is a distinguished scholar of medieval legal history at the University of Oxford and a Vice President of the renowned Selden Society, the learned society, and a publisher devoted to promoting research in English legal history.

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