Celebrating the magnificent Magna Carta

Posted on Friday 27th November 2015

Leading authority on the Magna Carta, Professor Nicholas Vincent gave an enlightening insight into one of the most famous documents in the world, in the latest lecture of the Centre for Islamic Finance at the University of Bolton.

The document recognised as the foundation stone of the British legal system celebrated its 800th anniversary earlier this year, with Professor Vincent involved in curating an exhibition about the document for the British Museum.

Signed on 15 June 1215 by King John, the Magna Carta was a set of demands by which the barons limited the power of the king to their advantage.

Over the course of the next 800 years, the idea of Magna Carta gathered momentum and assumed a greater authority, in particular clauses 38 and 39 which are still a key part of today’s modern legal system in the UK.


‘The Magna Carta is both an icon, historical event and something worthy of commemoration by the lawyers,’ explained Professor Vincent who has written 12 books and more than 100 articles on the document.

‘The 1215 Magna Carta survives in four forms. One is in Lincoln cathedral, one is in the cathedral of Salisbury, one still legible is in the British Library but lacks a seal and the fourth was very badly burnt in the 1730s is still in the British Library but today is to a large extent illegible.’

During the lecture Professor Vincent examined the history of the document, from its agreement by King John of England at Runnymede to the bringing together of the four remaining editions of the document earlier this year.

He acknowledged the role of William Blackstone who, in 1759, produced the first modern critical edition of the many versions of Magna Carta and the Statutes of the Realm, an authoritative collection of Acts of the Parliament of England published in 1810.


Professor Vincent also revealed he had discovered, that very day, a charter issued by King John to the men of Lancashire granting them villages.

‘It’s a very important document both for the history of Lancashire and the wider history of the Magna Carta.’

He concluded by stressing the continuing relevance of the Magna Carta and its ability to empower people today.