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Sealing the fate of democracy

Date Posted: 30/09/2014

Marking its octocentenary in 2015, chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Committee, Sir Robert Worcester, talks about the project and how schools can get involved.

Magna Carta matters. It is the foundation stone supporting the freedoms and liberties of almost two billion people in over 100 countries.

The sealing of Magna Carta in June 1215 laid down the basis for English common law and since then it has become one of the most influential documents ever produced.

We want to make sure the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta is therefore an opportunity for all generations to understand its historical importance and its continuing relevance today.

The Magna Carta Trust established the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee to help co-ordinate hundreds of local, national and international events; to promote Magna Carta’s importance today and to deliver a number of key aspirations.

Central to our work is improving the education of Magna Carta and leaving a legacy beyond the 800th anniversary commemorations.

In a survey we commissioned in 2012 (conducted by Ipsos MORI and King’s College London) we found that although 85 per cent of the adult population said they have heard of the Magna Carta, only around one in five people know many details, such as where, when and who agreed it.

This survey also showed that most people believe Magna Carta is about the rule of law, but fewer people know about its impact on religion, rights or democracy.

The next 12 months are an ideal opportunity for young people across the country - and across the world - to learn more about Magna Carta.

There are plans for lots of events and activities - from commemorative coins, to BBC programmes, new anthems and bell ringing, concerts, exhibitions and community activities.

Many of the key places throughout England with a link to Magna Carta will be holding special exhibitions that school groups can attend.

These include the British Library (hosting its largest ever exhibition next year, bringing discussion about the rule of law to the fore when the US Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights will stand alongside copies of the Magna Carta), Salisbury Cathedral and Lincoln Cathedral.

Magna Carta across the UK

If you visit the official website at www.magnacarta800th.com you’ll also see the many other places across the country making plans to commemorate Magna Carta, from major locations such as Runnymede, the city of London and UK Parliament, to small towns and villages that can trace a link to one (or more) of the original Barons that forced King John to accept the terms of Magna Carta almost 800 years ago.

On the website there is also a range of educational material - this will be developed further over the next few months.

The UK Parliament is also keen to excite a discussion amongst Britain’s youth with special events being planned alongside informative and insightful videos - see, for example, its YouTube video, A brief history of representation in nearly 60 seconds, for excellent coverage of this topic.

For Parliament, next year not only marks the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, but also the 750th of Simon DeMontfort’s parliament - another important event in the history of representation and democracy.

The reason why we should commemorate these events is clear: they are part of a struggle towards representation and for individual rights fought by our ancestors, which people across the world enjoy today.

The anniversary also serves as a reminder that the development of human rights and the desire for equal and fair treatment is a journey with a long way still to go.

To stay in touch with the Committee’s latest events, news and initiatives, sign up to the newsletter at www.magnacarta800th.com/newsletter.

Useful contact:

www.magnacarta800th.com/schools

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