Magna Carta: Statute or Myth?

On 2 April, under the auspices of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Law and Literature at the University of St Andrews, Sir john Baker gave an excellent lecture in St Salvator’s Hall on “Magna Carta: Statute or Myth?” As one could imagine, the lecture was learned, wide ranging and elegant; but after a fascinating exploration of the historic Magna Carta of King John, Sir John focused on the 1580s, arguing that it was then that it started to take on much of the meaning currently attributed it. This can be traced through readings given in the Inns of Court by Puritan lawyers. Sir John also discussed Coke, King James and Magna Carta. Ultimately he wisely concluded, what all lawyers know, that it is not the words that make the law, it is the interpretation that matters. Ultimately it was Coke’s view that was to count.

St SalvatorsSir John

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