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Magna Carta is arguably the most famous document in world history. 2015 marks its 800th anniversary. Yet, until relatively recently, it was unknown how many versions of the document survive, the means by which they were distributed, or the relationship between the charter of 1215 and Magna Carta as it was transmitted in subsequent issues. From Oxford to London, and from Washington to Canberra, more than thirty Magna Cartas are displayed in this book, each of them claiming to be an 'original' version of the charter granted by King John or reissued by his son or grandson. How did this situation arise? Precisely how many original Magna Cartas are there, and in which particular archives can they be seen? Were they written by the same or by many different scribes? How were they broadcast to the people at large? What differences are there between their appearance or their texts? Drawing on recent extensive archival research, this book looks at the publication and survival of Magna Carta. It also tells the story of how a peace treaty between a group of barons and a medieval English king became one of the chief cornerstones of civil liberties, informing universal ideas of liberty and justice across the centuries.
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