The man who invented the jury system

Today is the anniversary of Henry II, the man who brought in the jury system in the 12th century Here’s an extract from 1215 and All That: A Very, Very Short History of Magna Carta and King John Henry II’s great legacy was to revolutionize the English state, making it an efficient tax-raising machine and dispensing justice, but he and his family were also notoriously cruel and violent. So when Magna Carta emerged it was not only aimed at John, but at… Read on

Magna Carta: standing the test of time

From Spiked One day in June 1944, King George VI was driving back to Windsor from London in a furious mood. Winston Churchill, Britain’s powerful wartime prime minister, had just overruled him once again, frustrating the stammering king’s attempt to have a say in government. The monarch, a gentle and nervous figure who was well on his way to smoking himself to death through sheer anxiety caused by a job he didn’t want and which his useless brother… Read on

Was Magna Carta progressive?

Was Magna Carta progressive?

Magna Carta again, from 1215 And All That: In retrospect, unlike say the American constitution that was clearly influenced by it, Magna Carta looks like a mixed bunch of ideas and demands, some timeless and others odd, petty or actually malicious. Clause 33, for instance – ‘Henceforth all fish-weirs will be completely removed from the Thames and the Medway’ – is not something you often hear quoted in legal dramas or anything an Englishman would get misty-eyed about,… Read on

Happy Magna Carta day

Happy Magna Carta day

Today marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, for which we should really thank King John. For as Winston Churchill put it in The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, ‘When the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns; for it was through the union of many forces against him that the most famous milestone of our rights… Read on