The History & Legacy of Magna Carta Explained in Animated Videos by Monty Python’s Terry Jones

Even those who paid next to no atten­tion to their his­to­ry teach­ers know about Magna Car­ta — or at least they know it first came about in 1215. To deliv­er all the oth­er rel­e­vant details, we now have a new teacher in the form of Mon­ty Python’s Ter­ry Jones, who, on the occa­sion of this great char­ter’s 800th anniver­sary, pro­vides the nar­ra­tion for these two short ani­ma­tions, “Magna Car­ta: Medieval” and “Magna Car­ta: Lega­cy,” that tell the rest of its sto­ry.

These videos come as part of a whole web site put togeth­er by the British Library meant to help us all “dis­cov­er the his­to­ry and lega­cy of one of the world’s most cel­e­brat­ed doc­u­ments.” To this end, they’ve put up an intro­duc­tion to Magna Car­ta by Claire Breay and Julian Har­ri­son, which sum­ma­rizes both its ori­gins and its rel­e­vance today:

Orig­i­nal­ly issued by King John of Eng­land (r.1199–1216) as a prac­ti­cal solu­tion to the polit­i­cal cri­sis he faced in 1215, Magna Car­ta estab­lished for the first time the prin­ci­ple that every­body, includ­ing the king, was sub­ject to the law.

[ … ]

Three claus­es of the 1225 Magna Car­ta remain on the statute book today. Although most of the claus­es of Magna Car­ta have now been repealed, the many diver­gent uses that have been made of it since the Mid­dle Ages have shaped its mean­ing in the mod­ern era, and it has become a potent, inter­na­tion­al ral­ly­ing cry against the arbi­trary use of pow­er.

These ani­ma­tions, of course, add a great deal of visu­al, nar­ra­tive, and comedic vivid­ness to this impor­tant piece of West­ern polit­i­cal his­to­ry, fol­low­ing it from the reign of King John (“one of the worst kings in his­to­ry”), through civ­il war, the cre­ation of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, strug­gles for vot­ing rights and the free­dom of the press, right up to the writ­ing of the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights, in a sense Magna Car­ta’s mod­ern descen­dant. “Although very few of Magna Car­ta’s orig­i­nal claus­es remain valid in Eng­lish law,” says Jones, “it con­tin­ues to inspire peo­ple world­wide. Not a bad lega­cy for an 800-year-old doc­u­ment.”

via Devour

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Online Gallery of 30,000 Items from The British Library, Includ­ing Leonar­do da Vinci’s Note­books And Mozart’s Diary

Down­load 78 Free Online His­to­ry Cours­es: From Ancient Greece to The Mod­ern World

The British Library Puts Online 1,200 Lit­er­ary Trea­sures From Great Roman­tic & Vic­to­ri­an Writ­ers

Free Online Polit­i­cal Sci­ence Cours­es

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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