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Magna Carta


Magna Carta

Internationally important research Internationally important research

History research at UEA covers a vast span from medieval to modern, focussing on diverse and unique viewpoints on medicine, gender, landscape and political histories.

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Case study: Magna Carta

Our historians are bringing the Magna Carta into the 21st century ahead of its 800th anniversary this year.

The document is known around the world as the cornerstone of British constitutional liberty.

Now a project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, to track down lost originals and create an online database of new commentary, images, translations and research findings about the document is underway. 

Researchers have been sifting through more than 300 archives in the UK, France and Ireland, in a bid to trace lost originals. An original from the 1297 issue of Magna Carta, sold in New York in 2007, realised $21 million.

The team have also been on the look-out for new evidence about King John – popularised as a cruel villain in the legend of Robin Hood – to see whether he really was a monster. 

And they are making the first complete commentary on the document available as part of an online resource for members of the public and for fellow historians.

Prof Nicholas Vincent from UEA's School of History, who is leading the project, said: “Our work is transforming academic and public understanding of Magna Carta and King John.

“There have been studies devoted to particular aspects of Magna Carta’s history, but no attempt since 1914 to bring together all of the strands in our understanding.

“We are researching who wrote it, what it means, whether its clauses were obeyed at the time, and how it marked a watershed between a lawless and lawful government.

Prof Vincent was responsible for uncovering two original Magna Cartas in 2007, alongside three Forest Charters.

He has since found a further four originals of the Forest Charter, and more recently still, a previously unrecognized original of the Magna Carta issued in 1300.  

“Ours will be the first ever comprehensive survey of all the surviving originals,” he said. “It is certainly possible that more exist. They tend to turn up in archives, where someone thinks they have a copy rather than an original.”

As well as making their research available online, a series of public lectures and an exhibition will take place next year to help raise public awareness about the important document.  The research undertaken here has already reached to America and Australia (for whose national libraries, Professor Vincent has written articles and translations), and will in 2015 be carried as far as Beijing.

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Key academics Key academics

Professor Nicholas Vincent

Professor of Medieval History, School of History

Research Interests

English and European history in the 12th and 13th centuries, including relics and religion and charters and diplomatic.

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