April 22, 2015

You suckers don’t know your Magna Carta


magna carta

King John signing the Magna Carta, not that you care.

Eight hundred years after the Archbishop of Canterbury drafted the peace treaty you never got around to reading, and King John of England agreed to it (knowing, somewhere in his heart of hearts, it wouldn’t make any difference to you), the Magna Carta Chronicle by Christopher Lloyd (not that Christopher Lloyd, you philistine) is being released to primary school children in the UK. Because the Magna Carta 800th Committee considers you a lost cause, and has decided children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, etc.

What does it matter to you, anyway? It was annulled by Pope Innocent III, and it’s not like it had any profound influence on documents that helped to establish the U.S. as a separate country or anything important like that, right? Oh wait, it totally did. And you forgot to do the reading that one night of high school history class. You only remember a couple of bars of that “School House Rock” song. Something about civil liberties, maybe.

The British Library just put it on display in February, but you didn’t get around to showing up. A replica is on display in the Capitol in D.C., but you were busy taking the “House of Cards” tour and never got around to seeing it. This is why we have a formalized education system, man. The Magna Carta 800th Committee is donating a book about it to every primary school in the country:

The book, illustrated by Andy Forshaw, is laid out in the format of a newspaper format and starts with a mock-up article on how the Magna Carta came into being in 1215 during the reign of King John, when barons negotiated for more freedoms. The rest of the articles describe fights for freedom that have happened since, including the drafting of the US Declaration in 1776, women in the UK gaining the vote in 1923, and Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. The book also comes with a two-metre foldout chart of all the events laid out along a timeline, and a crossword.

“The fight for freedom and rights and the rule of law is a global story, but one that should be extra special to everyone living in the UK since its origins and dramas – from the freedom to choose our rulers and religion to equality of opportunity and the right to live without fear of unlawful imprisonment – are so inextricably linked to the history of Britain itself,” said Sir Robert Worcester, chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Committee.

And American kids? No free copies. They’re probably a lost cause, anyway.


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.