Magna Carta 800th Anniversary

Melvyn Bragg recently interviewed Professor Louise Wilkinson for a BBC Radio 4 documentary series on Magna Carta. There are many other Magna Carta events and projects we are involved with in this 800th anniversary year.

BBC Radio 4

In December 2014 Melvyn Bragg and BBC Radio 4 came to Canterbury to record part of a brand new documentary series on Magna Carta, broadcast on 5-8 January 2015.  Lord Bragg interviewed our own Professor Louise Wilkinson along with Mrs Cressida Williams, the Cathedral and City Archivist, about Canterbury’s connections with Magna Carta and Archbishop Stephen Langton.

The four special programmes can be listened to on the BBC website for the next twelve months.


Episodes 1 and 3 were recorded with Louise and Cressida in Canterbury Cathedral Library itself. The four special programmes can be listened to on the BBC website for the next twelve months. Listen here.

Lord Bragg’s visit was extremely well timed. As one of England’s five Magna Carta towns, and the original home of one of the world’s four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, Canterbury is preparing to celebrate the 800 th anniversary of this remarkable document in June 2015.

Find out more about Magna Carta events.

The Magna Carta Project

Magna Carta, the great charter of liberties, issued by King John at Runnymede on 15 June 1215, is the closest thing that we have in England to a written constitution. Enshrined within its contents are fundamental principles that democratic countries still hold dear today: rulers should be subject to the law; and men and women should not be unjustly captured, detained or prosecuted by the state without a fair trial. Magna Carta’s importance cannot be underestimated - its contents inspired the colonial settlers who travelled from England to the Americas, influenced the US constitution and those who sought to abolish slavery.


Yet, there is still a great deal about Magna Carta that remains to be discovered. The Christ Church History programme’s Louise Wilkinson is one of a team of scholars from the universities of East Anglia, London and Oxford, who have been working for three years on The Magna Carta Project .

This project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom, is providing the most detailed investigation ever into the Charter. Some of the team’s exciting new discoveries were showcased in Melvyn Bragg’s series, including the identity of Canterbury’s 1215 Magna Carta.

Louise Wilkinson talks and events

Louise has been invited to give a series of talks on her new research into women and Magna Carta in the U.S. (Utah) and U.K. (Bristol, Canterbury, Faversham, Lincoln, London and Leeds) throughout the year, including a special Magna Carta event for the BBC History Magazine .

She is attending the Magna Carta reunification events of the 1215 originals at the British Library and Westminster, and, further afield, she is contributing to a special commemorative publication on Magna Carta by the Australian Senate. You can read some of Louise’s biographies of the remarkable women who lived at the time of Magna Carta on the Magna Carta 800th website.

Within Canterbury, Louise has been closely involved in the work of Canterbury’s Magna Carta celebration committee, who are putting together a splendid programme of events. The Beaney House of Knowledge, the city’s central museum, will host a special ‘Canterbury in the Age of Magna Carta’ Exhibition from June to September 2015, drawing on research by Louise and CCCU doctoral student, Harriet Kersey.

Magna Carta, King John and the Civil War in Kent

Our Centre for Research into Kent History and Archaeology will hold a major conference on 6 th June 2015, in partnership with Canterbury Cathedral Archives, at which leading Magna Carta scholars will present their latest research into the Canterbury Magna Carta, King John and the Civil War in Kent. It is going to be a busy year, so watch this space.


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Last edited: 13/12/2018 20:19:00