Magna Carta

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  • Magna Carta
    • Summary
      • In Anglo-Saxon times Kings worked together with the Witan or Council to rule.
      • The Normans used the feudal system, giving the king full power and the barons depended on the king for land and wealth.
      • Strong monarchs profited from this system, but weaker ones and those with unrealistic demands could expect trouble. This is what happened to King John.
      • John was forced by the barons to concede a charter, known as the Magna Carta
      • This was the first time a king had been forced to agree legal limits on his rule. Henry I's charter was voluntary, done so that he could gain support.
      • The idea grew that monarchs were subject to law as well, and that they could be held accountable for their actions.
    • Background
      • Prior to the Magna Carta there had been two other charters made by the king.
        • 1014- King Aethelred's Charter
          • Promised to govern more justly than before.
        • 1100- Henry I's Coronation
          • Abolished England's oppressive customs.
          • Restored laws from Edward the Confessor.
    • Significance
      • Short/Medium Term
        • It didn't solve the problem- King John only agreed to the Magna Carta to buy time. He went back on his word and civil war broke out.
        • The Magna Carta was only about the relationship between the king and the barons, who were not interested in the rights of peasants.
      • Long Term
        • As more people became free the charter had more applications and therefore gained significance.
        • It showed that the King could be held accountable by the barons if he ruled incorrectly.
        • The Magna Carta became a symbol of power. It is used as a defence when people protest against strong authority.
        • It was seen as the first step in a long process towards democracy.
        • It influenced many international documents
          • The Declaration of Human Rights
          • The US Constitution
          • The British Consititution
    • The Failures of King John
      • King John was a weak leader
        • Lost land in Normandy.
        • Nicknamed 'Softsword".
      • He argued with the Church.
        • Excommunication from Pope
        • People thought they were going to hell.
      • Failure in taking back Norman land.
        • Led to increased  Scutage tax to pay for the war.
          • The barons felt their money was being wasted
        • Left John and the country in debt.
    • What was it?
      • Judges not allowed to take bribes
      • King must seek advice before taxation.
      • Everyone is free and entitled to a fair trials.
      • King can't interfere with the Church.
      • Barons can only be fined if other barons find them guilty.
    • THEMES
      • War
        • John's failure in war and the taxes made the barons unhappy, causing them to push for change.
      • Religion
        • Excommunication left people fearing that they would go to Hell.
        • Pope sided with John, saying the charter was invalid.
      • Government
        • John asked the barons for scutage and refused to accept Magna Carta, causing civil war.
      • Communication
        • When John refused to accept the charter, the barons asked Louis of France to take over.
      • Role of the Individual
        • Stephen Langton worked with the barons to create the Provisions of Oxford.
  • Religion
    • Excommunication left people fearing that they would go to Hell.
    • Pope sided with John, saying the charter was invalid.


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