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elberko Jun 18th, 2015 04:41 AM

Magna Carta exhibit at the British Library
I'll be in London at the tail-end of this exhibit. Looking at the calendar, I'm a little surprised that there seem to be lots of tickets available--I'm surprised there isn't more interest.

Has anybody seen the exhibit?

thursdaysd Jun 18th, 2015 06:17 AM

Hadn't realized this was on, thanks. Now I know what I'll be doing the morning of Aug 31st!

elberko Jun 18th, 2015 07:50 AM

I'll probably go on Sept. 1st., before the GTG.

PatrickLondon Jun 18th, 2015 08:27 AM

Yes, I've been. It has a section on the political background to the charter, and on the relatively short-term history of subsequent charters (it omits entirely the whole story of Simon de Montfort and the development of parliaments in the following reign, which is another aspect of the processes the various charters represent). It demonstrates graphically how, over time, almost all of what it was concerned with was overtaken by subsequent legislation.

The main focus of the exhibition is on the legend that later developed around Magna Carta, from Parliament's resentment of Charles I's failings onwards - a legend that had less and less to do with what the charter(s) actually said and did. The interest is in how a deal to tie down a legislative return for the rich from what they paid to the king came to capture the imagination of later generations as an inspiration to preserve individual human rights.

bilboburgler Jun 18th, 2015 08:44 AM

Probably more important to Americans and their Constitution than to Britains. You have to remember the British have no written constitution and while we are all taught about it at school we are also aware of the faults in it.

Still I'm old enough to have seen a couple of copies over the years.

I notice that on the day that it was signed 800 years later the President of Sudan was allowed to leave South Africa because he "was above the law". Let us all think for a second on that.

latedaytraveler Jun 18th, 2015 01:23 PM


While you are there, you might consider taking a tour of the BRITISH LIBRARY – a vast, and interesting place. I really enjoyed it and learned so much…

elberko Jun 18th, 2015 01:27 PM

Thanks, latedaytraveler. I'll add it to the list of possibilities. My week is filling up.

texasbookworm Jun 18th, 2015 05:20 PM

My daughter and I enjoyed the exhibit; there is a LOT of information, but it is clearly presented in a logical way. As an American, I found that much of the specific historical bits and significance were new to (or lost on!) me, but the overall message of the importance of law--whether Magna Carta or what came before or what came after--was powerful. We are glad we spent our hour although we read only a fraction of what was available to read!

If you go, don't miss the (free) exhibit of the embroidery of the Google entry for Magna Carta. Unique.

And then there's the time you need for the (free) Treasures room! So yes the British Library is worth a visit and do allow several (2-4) hours if you are going to also see the Magna Carta exhibit. (One hurried hour will let you see a lot of the Treasures, but we spent 3 on our visit to see that room as well as the Magna Carta things--and it was a return visit for both of us to the Treasures Room, not our first time, so...)

flanneruk Jun 19th, 2015 03:36 AM

"I'm surprised there isn't more interest."

Why would you expect there to be any?

Of the four surviving copies sealed in 1215, two are in the BL anyway, one's in Salisbury and one's in Lincoln. Most of the other 13 versions sealed in the 13th century are in London or within a hundred miles or so. Almost all are routinely displayed in public: three are on display (free entry) at present in Oxford's Weston Library.

The chance to see a now close to illegible medieval charter, written in a language few understand and normally on public display within 50 miles of most Englishpeople anyway, is about as underwhelming a proposition as it's possible to conceive.

Except for extraordinarily arcane scholarship, there's no value being able to see any charter easily accessible online and even more easily downloadable transcribed in their original. These charters pose almost no questions of disputed reading: they may be illegible to most of us these days, but their calligraphy was chosen to ensure indisputable clarity among 13th century lawyers and clerics.

The signing was a minor event in English history (the evolution of the rule of law is one of our major gifts to the world, but 1215 was just one of many steps in the process) and history isn't taught in English schools as nationalist propaganda anyway.

Magnamania is a recent - largely foreign - cult, as the exhibition explains. But the exhibition is just an illustrated thesis. It's an interesting thesis if you're intrigued by the creation of historical myths - but it doesn't offer the one-off opportunity to see artistic works in each others' contexts that usually generates the crowds at a Leonardo exhibition.

The BL's big, pay-to-enter, exhibitions, in my view, are too often ways of extracting cash from sponsors and tourists, with surprisingly little gripping content.

I'd rate this among the least exciting shows the BL's done since it moved into this space. If I were a tourist on a budget with limited time, I wouldn't bother. Unless I were a member of the Magnamania cult.

elberko Jun 19th, 2015 05:04 AM

I see.

Well, as long as there aren't too many young American girls hogging up the exhibit, I believe I will still enjoy seeing it.

MissPrism Jun 19th, 2015 05:22 AM

I'd certainly go to the treasure room. You can see some extremely beautiful works and can virtually turn the pages of many of them

gertie3751 Jun 19th, 2015 05:28 AM

LOL elberko.
Have definitely put it on my list after this exchange.

MissPrism Jun 19th, 2015 05:30 AM

Actually, you can see a lot of the British Library treasures without leaving home

nola77382 Jun 22nd, 2015 08:21 AM

We're going on July 2nd. The Treasures Room is one of my favorite places I've ever visited. I desperately wanted to return there and this exhibit is an excuse to drag my husband and nephew to the Library. If nothing else, the Treasures Room will be worth the trip!

IMDonehere Jun 22nd, 2015 10:22 AM

The Magna Carta is a seminal document not a sacred one.

Like Flanny, there are a number of American historians who have a contrarian position on the Magna Carta, simply to take a contrarian position. I am sure Flanny opposed the cure for polio just because it was discovered by an American.

Flanny characterized it as "llegible medieval charter, written in a language few understand." His attempt to cheapen its importance, are the words of an pseudo-intellectual bigot rather than a scholar. Perhaps they should have waited for the typewriter or Microsoft Office 2013.

The Magna Carta had a beneficial influence on the 4th through 8th Amendments of the US Constitution. Because as in most things in life, it takes intelligence to apply any idea properly.

Yes, there were many topical grievances and solutions; one of the weirder ones limits women’s ability to bear witness to certain homicides.

On the other hand it also gave London and other towns some degree of autonomy.

Not bad for a document that was supposed to be a peace treaty, negotiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and signed by no one.

It is far better than the English influence of slavery, destroying native cultures, and Marmite.

And yes Elberko, that was a witty remark.

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