Episode 038: Carolyn Harris, Magna Carta & Its Gifts to North America

Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada

Are you ready to time travel?

2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a document created to limit the powers of King John of England and his successors in 1215.

Today, Magna Carta and its four key principles continue to influence and inspire the governments of English-speaking countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.

In today’s episode, we explore Magna Carta and its long legacy with Carolyn Harris, author of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

HarrisIn this episode, we explore 800 years of Magna Carta with Carolyn Harris, an historian of European monarchy and author of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights.

During our exploration, Carolyn reveals what Magna Carta is and the reason for its creation in 1215; The four key principles contained in the Great Charter; And, how Magna Carta has influenced the American Revolution, the development of Canada’s constitutional monarchy, and whether its ideas are still relevant in our 21st century.

What You’ll Discover

  • Overview of Magna Carta and why English-speaking nations around the world are celebrating its 800th anniversary
  • Details about King John and his role in the Robin Hood legends
  • Myth vs. Reality about King John
  • Who wrote Magna Carta
  • Why King John’s barons wanted to check his powers and the powers of future English monarchs
  • The 4 key principles of Magna Carta
  • How women’s rights are represented in Magna Carta
  • Who in England benefited from the rights protected by Magna Carta
  • How and why Magna Carta fell away from the forefront of English minds between the 13th and the 16th centuries
  • How Englishmen and women interacted with Magna Carta and its ideas
  • Information about Sir Edward Coke and his work to bring Magna Carta back to the forefront of English minds in the 16th century
  • How Sir Edward Coke expanded the definition of “arbitrary rule”
  • The influence of Magna Carta on the Royal Proclamation of 1763
  • Why Canadians view the the Proclamation of 1763 as the “Indian Magna Carta”
  • The influence of Magna Carta on the American Revolution
  • The influence of the Great Charter on the Canadian government
  • Overview of the Canadian constitutional monarchy
  • Whether Magna Carta and its ideas are still relevant in our 21st century
  • Details about the copy of Magna Carta touring Canada in 2015
1297 edition of Magna Carta on display at the United States National Archives

Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion what might have happened if Sir Edward Coke had not revived memory of Magna Carta? How would the histories of England, the United States, and Canada be different today?


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