The Rule of History - Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, and the hold of time.
Jill Lepore The New Yorker, 20.04.2015 (source SG)

In 1199, after Richard’s death by crossbow, John, no longer lacking in land or soft of sword, was crowned king of England. « Many times he went to battle. He lost more castles than he gained. He lost Anjou, and much of Aquitaine. He lost Normandy »
« In May of 1215, barons rebelling against the King’s tyrannical rule captured London. That spring, he agreed to meet with them to negotiate a peace. They met at Runnymede, a meadow by the Thames.
The barons presented the King with a number of demands, the Articles of the Barons, which included, as Article 29, this provision: « The body of a free man is not to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way ruined, nor is the king to go against him or send forcibly against him, except by judgment of his peers or by the law of the land » »...

The King died in October, 1216. He was buried in Worcester, in part because, as Church writes, « so much of his kingdom was in enemy hands ».
« By 1225, what was left—nearly a third of the 1215 charter had been cut or revised—had become known as Magna Carta. It granted liberties not to free men but to everyone, free and unfree. It also divided its provisions into chapters. It entered the statute books in 1297, and was first publicly proclaimed in English in 1300 ».

« in the seventeenth century Magna Carta became a rallying cry during a parliamentary struggle against arbitrary power, even though by then the various versions of the charter had become hopelessly muddled and its history obscured ».

« In the United States in the nineteenth century, the myth of Magna Carta as a single, stable, unchanged document contributed to the veneration of the Constitution as unalterable »

WW2 : « The Lincoln cathedral’s Magna Carta was deposited in the Library of Congress where it was displayed next to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, with which, once the war began, it was evacuated to Fort Knox. It was returned to the Lincoln Cathedral in 1946 ».

« The rule of history is as old as the rule of law. Magna Carta has been sealed and nullified, revised and flouted, elevated and venerated. The past has a hold: writing is the casting of a line over the edge of time. But there are no certainties in history. There are only struggles for justice, and wars interrupted by peace ».


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Jill Lepore cite :
Nicholas Vincent, « Magna Carta: A Very Short Introduction » (Oxford).
David Carpenter, « Magna Carta » Penguin Classics