Magna Carta Timeline

Historical Timeline: 1000-1999

1204 Fourth Crusade attacks, takes Constantinople
1215 Magna Carta sealed by King John
1237 Mongols conquer Russia
1258 British House of Commons established
1271 Marco Polo travels to China
1272 Thomas Aquinass Summa Theologica published

1321 Dantes Divine Comedy published
1349 Black Death kills third of English population
1368 Ming Dynasty established in China
1387 Chaucers Canterbury Tales published

1414 Publication of Thomas ` Kempiss Imitation of Christ
1434 Cosimo de Medici becomes ruler of Florence
1441 Portuguese navigators begin slave trade
1453 Gutenberg Bible printed using moveable type Turks conquer Constantinople and end Byzantine Empire
1487 Portugese sail to South America
1492 Columbus discovers America
1497 Vasco da Gama discovers a sea route to India

1503 DaVincis Mona Lisa painted
1508 Michelangelo begins painting Sistine Chapel ceiling
1509 Henry VIII becomes King of England
1513 Ponce de Leon discovers Florida Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean
1517 Martin Luther posts 95 Theses in Wittenberg Spanish conquistadors land in Mexico, begin conquest of the Aztecs and central America
1519 Magellan begins circumnavigation of the earth
1522 Luther completes translation of the New Testament into German
1525 Anabaptist Swiss Brethren organized in Zurich William Tyndales English Bible printed in Germany
1531 Henry VIII becomes Supreme Head of the church in England
1532 Machiavellis The Prince published
1536 Calvins Institutes of the Christian Religion published
1541 John Knox leads Calvinist Reformation in Scotland
1542 Portugese traders and Jesuit missionaries arrive in Japan
1546 Mercator states that the earth has a magnetic pole
1558 Elizabeth I crowned Queen of England
1563 General outbreak of the Black Plague in Europe
1564 William Shakespeare born
1572 St. Bartholomews Day massacre in Paris-2,000 Protestants killed
1577 Sir Francis Drake begins around-the-world cruise
1582 Gregorian calendar adopted
1588 Spanish Armada destroyed in the English Channel
1596 Galileo invents the thermometer

1602 Dutch East India Company founded
1605 Cervantess Don Quixote published
1607 First permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown
1608 Galileo constructs astronomical telescope
1611 Authorized King James Bible published
1616 Shakespeare dies
1619 Harvey discovers the circulation of the blood
1620 Pilgrims sail from Holland to New England-establish Plymouth
1623 First patent law enacted in England
1626 Peter Minuit buys Manhattan Island from Indians for the equivalent of $24
1630 Massachusetts Bay Puritan colony founded
1636 Roger Williams establishes free Baptist colony at Providence
1642 English Civil War begins
1646 Westminster Assembly adopts Confession of Faith
1648 Taj Mahal completed in Agra, India
1649 Charles I beheaded
1653 Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector of England
1663 John Newton develops the binomial theorem
1665 Isaac Newton invents differential calculus
1675 Christopher Wren begins reconstruction of St. Pauls Cathedral in London
1678 John Bunyans Pilgrims Progress published
1685 Chinese ports opened to foreign trade
1688 London underwriters begin meeting at Lloyds Coffee House
1689 Peter the Great becomes Czar of Russia first modern trade fair held at Leiden, Holland
1695 English government ends press censorship

Magna Carta Timeline - History

Magna Carta – Latin for 'The Great Charter' – is one of the most celebrated documents in western history. It set detailed limits on the power of King John and established that, despite his royal status, John was obliged to abide by the law.

Magna Carta is often seen as the basis of liberty and justice as we know it in the west. The 39 th clause of the charter is still part of British law today. It states that: 'No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.'

In fact, Magna Carta was never meant to be a lasting declaration of legal principle, but was a practical solution to a political crisis. Throughout his reign, King John had exploited his subjects, particularly the barons. He arbitrarily imposed harsh taxes and seized property, using the funds to pay for expensive battles. Eventually, the barons, who had become increasingly angry at his actions, rebelled. Magna Carta dealt mainly with those at the top of the social scale, and had relatively little impact on the majority of people at the time, but its re-use in later centuries has meant that its legacy has lived on.

Shelfmark: Cotton Augustus ii.106




Clauses marked (+) are still valid under the charter of 1225, but with a few minor amendments. Clauses marked (*) were omitted in all later reissues of the charter. In the charter itself the clauses are not numbered, and the text reads continuously. The translation sets out to convey the sense rather than the precise wording of the original Latin.

JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting.

KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter Bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric master of the knighthood of the Temple in England, William Marshal earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warren, William earl of Arundel, Alan de Galloway constable of Scotland, Warin Fitz Gerald, Peter Fitz Herbert, Hubert de Burgh seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip Daubeny, Robert de Roppeley, John Marshal, John Fitz Hugh, and other loyal subjects:

+ (1) FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.

TO ALL FREE MEN OF OUR KINGDOM we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs:

(2) If any earl, baron, or other person that holds lands directly of the Crown, for military service, shall die, and at his death his heir shall be of full age and owe a 'relief', the heir shall have his inheritance on payment of the ancient scale of 'relief'. That is to say, the heir or heirs of an earl shall pay £100 for the entire earl's barony, the heir or heirs of a knight 100s. at most for the entire knight's 'fee', and any man that owes less shall pay less, in accordance with the ancient usage of 'fees'

(3) But if the heir of such a person is under age and a ward, when he comes of age he shall have his inheritance without 'relief' or fine.

(4) The guardian of the land of an heir who is under age shall take from it only reasonable revenues, customary dues, and feudal services. He shall do this without destruction or damage to men or property. If we have given the guardianship of the land to a sheriff, or to any person answerable to us for the revenues, and he commits destruction or damage, we will exact compensation from him, and the land shall be entrusted to two worthy and prudent men of the same 'fee', who shall be answerable to us for the revenues, or to the person to whom we have assigned them. If we have given or sold to anyone the guardianship of such land, and he causes destruction or damage, he shall lose the guardianship of it, and it shall be handed over to two worthy and prudent men of the same 'fee', who shall be similarly answerable to us.

(5) For so long as a guardian has guardianship of such land, he shall maintain the houses, parks, fish preserves, ponds, mills, and everything else pertaining to it, from the revenues of the land itself. When the heir comes of age, he shall restore the whole land to him, stocked with plough teams and such implements of husbandry as the season demands and the revenues from the land can reasonably bear.

(6) Heirs may be given in marriage, but not to someone of lower social standing. Before a marriage takes place, it shall be made known to the heir's next-of-kin.

(7) At her husband's death, a widow may have her marriage portion and inheritance at once and without trouble. She shall pay nothing for her dower, marriage portion, or any inheritance that she and her husband held jointly on the day of his death. She may remain in her husband's house for forty days after his death, and within this period her dower shall be assigned to her.

(8) No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband. But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent, if she holds her lands of the Crown, or without the consent of whatever other lord she may hold them of.

(9) Neither we nor our officials will seize any land or rent in payment of a debt, so long as the debtor has movable goods sufficient to discharge the debt. A debtor's sureties shall not be distrained upon so long as the debtor himself can discharge his debt. If, for lack of means, the debtor is unable to discharge his debt, his sureties shall be answerable for it. If they so desire, they may have the debtor's lands and rents until they have received satisfaction for the debt that they paid for him, unless the debtor can show that he has settled his obligations to them.

* (10) If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective of whom he holds his lands. If such a debt falls into the hands of the Crown, it will take nothing except the principal sum specified in the bond.

* (11) If a man dies owing money to Jews, his wife may have her dower and pay nothing towards the debt from it. If he leaves children that are under age, their needs may also be provided for on a scale appropriate to the size of his holding of lands. The debt is to be paid out of the residue, reserving the service due to his feudal lords. Debts owed to persons other than Jews are to be dealt with similarly.

* (12) No 'scutage' or 'aid' may be levied in our kingdom without its general consent, unless it is for the ransom of our person, to make our eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry our eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable 'aid' may be levied. 'Aids' from the city of London are to be treated similarly.

+ (13) The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs.

* (14) To obtain the general consent of the realm for the assessment of an 'aid' - except in the three cases specified above - or a 'scutage', we will cause the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons to be summoned individually by letter. To those who hold lands directly of us we will cause a general summons to be issued, through the sheriffs and other officials, to come together on a fixed day (of which at least forty days notice shall be given) and at a fixed place. In all letters of summons, the cause of the summons will be stated. When a summons has been issued, the business appointed for the day shall go forward in accordance with the resolution of those present, even if not all those who were summoned have appeared.

* (15) In future we will allow no one to levy an 'aid' from his free men, except to ransom his person, to make his eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry his eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable 'aid' may be levied.

(16) No man shall be forced to perform more service for a knight's 'fee', or other free holding of land, than is due from it.

(17) Ordinary lawsuits shall not follow the royal court around, but shall be held in a fixed place.

(18) Inquests of novel disseisin, mort d'ancestor, and darrein presentment shall be taken only in their proper county court. We ourselves, or in our absence abroad our chief justice, will send two justices to each county four times a year, and these justices, with four knights of the county elected by the county itself, shall hold the assizes in the county court, on the day and in the place where the court meets.

(19) If any assizes cannot be taken on the day of the county court, as many knights and freeholders shall afterwards remain behind, of those who have attended the court, as will suffice for the administration of justice, having regard to the volume of business to be done.

(20) For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a villein the implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood.

(21) Earls and barons shall be fined only by their equals, and in proportion to the gravity of their offence.

(22) A fine imposed upon the lay property of a clerk in holy orders shall be assessed upon the same principles, without reference to the value of his ecclesiastical benefice.

(23) No town or person shall be forced to build bridges over rivers except those with an ancient obligation to do so.

(24) No sheriff, constable, coroners, or other royal officials are to hold lawsuits that should be held by the royal justices.

* (25) Every county, hundred, wapentake, and riding shall remain at its ancient rent, without increase, except the royal demesne manors.

(26) If at the death of a man who holds a lay 'fee' of the Crown, a sheriff or royal official produces royal letters patent of summons for a debt due to the Crown, it shall be lawful for them to seize and list movable goods found in the lay 'fee' of the dead man to the value of the debt, as assessed by worthy men. Nothing shall be removed until the whole debt is paid, when the residue shall be given over to the executors to carry out the dead man’s will. If no debt is due to the Crown, all the movable goods shall be regarded as the property of the dead man, except the reasonable shares of his wife and children.

* (27) If a free man dies intestate, his movable goods are to be distributed by his next-of-kin and friends, under the supervision of the Church. The rights of his debtors are to be preserved.

(28) No constable or other royal official shall take corn or other movable goods from any man without immediate payment, unless the seller voluntarily offers postponement of this.

(29) No constable may compel a knight to pay money for castle-guard if the knight is willing to undertake the guard in person, or with reasonable excuse to supply some other fit man to do it. A knight taken or sent on military service shall be excused from castle-guard for the period of this service.

(30) No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent.

(31) Neither we nor any royal official will take wood for our castle, or for any other purpose, without the consent of the owner.

(32) We will not keep the lands of people convicted of felony in our hand for longer than a year and a day, after which they shall be returned to the lords of the 'fees' concerned.

(33) All fish-weirs shall be removed from the Thames, the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea coast.

(34) The writ called >precipe shall not in future be issued to anyone in respect of any holding of land, if a free man could thereby be deprived of the right of trial in his own lord's court.

(35) There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom. There shall also be a standard width of dyed cloth, russet, and haberject, namely two ells within the selvedges. Weights are to be standardised similarly.

(36) In future nothing shall be paid or accepted for the issue of a writ of inquisition of life or limbs. It shall be given gratis, and not refused.

(37) If a man holds land of the Crown by 'fee-farm', 'socage', or 'burgage', and also holds land of someone else for knight's service, we will not have guardianship of his heir, nor of the land that belongs to the other person's 'fee', by virtue of the 'fee-farm', 'socage', or 'burgage', unless the 'fee-farm' owes knight's service. We will not have the guardianship of a man's heir, or of land that he holds of someone else, by reason of any small property that he may hold of the Crown for a service of knives, arrows, or the like.

(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

+ (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

+ (40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

(41) All merchants may enter or leave England unharmed and without fear, and may stay or travel within it, by land or water, for purposes of trade, free from all illegal exactions, in accordance with ancient and lawful customs. This, however, does not apply in time of war to merchants from a country that is at war with us. Any such merchants found in our country at the outbreak of war shall be detained without injury to their persons or property, until we or our chief justice have discovered how our own merchants are being treated in the country at war with us. If our own merchants are safe they shall be safe too.

* (42) In future it shall be lawful for any man to leave and return to our kingdom unharmed and without fear, by land or water, preserving his allegiance to us, except in time of war, for some short period, for the common benefit of the realm. People that have been imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the land, people from a country that is at war with us, and merchants - who shall be dealt with as stated above - are excepted from this provision.

(43) If a man holds lands of any 'escheat' such as the 'honour' of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other 'escheats' in our hand that are baronies, at his death his heir shall give us only the 'relief' and service that he would have made to the baron, had the barony been in the baron's hand. We will hold the 'escheat' in the same manner as the baron held it.

(44) People who live outside the forest need not in future appear before the royal justices of the forest in answer to general summonses, unless they are actually involved in proceedings or are sureties for someone who has been seized for a forest offence.

* (45) We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs, or other officials, only men that know the law of the realm and are minded to keep it well.

(46) All barons who have founded abbeys, and have charters of English kings or ancient tenure as evidence of this, may have guardianship of them when there is no abbot, as is their due.

(47) All forests that have been created in our reign shall at once be disafforested. River-banks that have been enclosed in our reign shall be treated similarly.

* (48) All evil customs relating to forests and warrens, foresters, warreners, sheriffs and their servants, or river-banks and their wardens, are at once to be investigated in every county by twelve sworn knights of the county, and within forty days of their enquiry the evil customs are to be abolished completely and irrevocably. But we, or our chief justice if we are not in England, are first to be informed.

* (49) We will at once return all hostages and charters delivered up to us by Englishmen as security for peace or for loyal service.

* (50) We will remove completely from their offices the kinsmen of Gerard de Athée, and in future they shall hold no offices in England. The people in question are Engelard de Cigogné, Peter, Guy, and Andrew de Chanceaux, Guy de Cigogné, Geoffrey de Martigny and his brothers, Philip Marc and his brothers, with Geoffrey his nephew, and all their followers.

* (51) As soon as peace is restored, we will remove from the kingdom all the foreign knights, bowmen, their attendants, and the mercenaries that have come to it, to its harm, with horses and arms.

* (52) To any man whom we have deprived or dispossessed of lands, castles, liberties, or rights, without the lawful judgement of his equals, we will at once restore these. In cases of dispute the matter shall be resolved by the judgement of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace. In cases, however, where a man was deprived or dispossessed of something without the lawful judgement of his equals by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and it remains in our hands or is held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, unless a lawsuit had been begun, or an enquiry had been made at our order, before we took the Cross as a Crusader. On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once render justice in full.

* (53) We shall have similar respite in rendering justice in connexion with forests that are to be disafforested, or to remain forests, when these were first afforested by our father Henry or our brother Richard with the guardianship of lands in another person's 'fee', when we have hitherto had this by virtue of a 'fee' held of us for knight's service by a third party and with abbeys founded in another person's 'fee', in which the lord of the 'fee' claims to own a right. On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once do full justice to complaints about these matters.

(54) No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of any person except her husband.

* (55) All fines that have been given to us unjustly and against the law of the land, and all fines that we have exacted unjustly, shall be entirely remitted or the matter decided by a majority judgement of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace together with Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he wishes to bring with him. If the archbishop cannot be present, proceedings shall continue without him, provided that if any of the twenty-five barons has been involved in a similar suit himself, his judgement shall be set aside, and someone else chosen and sworn in his place, as a substitute for the single occasion, by the rest of the twenty-five.

(56) If we have deprived or dispossessed any Welshmen of lands, liberties, or anything else in England or in Wales, without the lawful judgement of their equals, these are at once to be returned to them. A dispute on this point shall be determined in the Marches by the judgement of equals. English law shall apply to holdings of land in England, Welsh law to those in Wales, and the law of the Marches to those in the Marches. The Welsh shall treat us and ours in the same way.

* (57) In cases where a Welshman was deprived or dispossessed of anything, without the lawful judgement of his equals, by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and it remains in our hands or is held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, unless a lawsuit had been begun, or an enquiry had been made at our order, before we took the Cross as a Crusader. But on our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once do full justice according to the laws of Wales and the said regions.

* (58) We will at once return the son of Llywelyn, all Welsh hostages, and the charters delivered to us as security for the peace.

* (59) With regard to the return of the sisters and hostages of Alexander, king of Scotland, his liberties and his rights, we will treat him in the same way as our other barons of England, unless it appears from the charters that we hold from his father William, formerly king of Scotland, that he should be treated otherwise. This matter shall be resolved by the judgement of his equals in our court.

(60) All these customs and liberties that we have granted shall be observed in our kingdom in so far as concerns our own relations with our subjects. Let all men of our kingdom, whether clergy or laymen, observe them similarly in their relations with their own men.

* (61) SINCE WE HAVE GRANTED ALL THESE THINGS for God, for the better ordering of our kingdom, and to allay the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, and since we desire that they shall be enjoyed in their entirety, with lasting strength, for ever, we give and grant to the barons the following security:

The barons shall elect twenty-five of their number to keep, and cause to be observed with all their might, the peace and liberties granted and confirmed to them by this charter.

If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us - or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice - to declare it and claim immediate redress. If we, or in our absence abroad the chief justice, make no redress within forty days, reckoning from the day on which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon. Having secured the redress, they may then resume their normal obedience to us.

Any man who so desires may take an oath to obey the commands of the twenty-five barons for the achievement of these ends, and to join with them in assailing us to the utmost of his power. We give public and free permission to take this oath to any man who so desires, and at no time will we prohibit any man from taking it. Indeed, we will compel any of our subjects who are unwilling to take it to swear it at our command.

If one of the twenty-five barons dies or leaves the country, or is prevented in any other way from discharging his duties, the rest of them shall choose another baron in his place, at their discretion, who shall be duly sworn in as they were.

In the event of disagreement among the twenty-five barons on any matter referred to them for decision, the verdict of the majority present shall have the same validity as a unanimous verdict of the whole twenty-five, whether these were all present or some of those summoned were unwilling or unable to appear.

The twenty-five barons shall swear to obey all the above articles faithfully, and shall cause them to be obeyed by others to the best of their power.

We will not seek to procure from anyone, either by our own efforts or those of a third party, anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished. Should such a thing be procured, it shall be null and void and we will at no time make use of it, either ourselves or through a third party.

* (62) We have remitted and pardoned fully to all men any ill-will, hurt, or grudges that have arisen between us and our subjects, whether clergy or laymen, since the beginning of the dispute. We have in addition remitted fully, and for our own part have also pardoned, to all clergy and laymen any offences committed as a result of the said dispute between Easter in the sixteenth year of our reign (i.e. 1215) and the restoration of peace.

In addition we have caused letters patent to be made for the barons, bearing witness to this security and to the concessions set out above, over the seals of Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, Henry archbishop of Dublin, the other bishops named above, and Master Pandulf.

* (63) IT IS ACCORDINGLY OUR WISH AND COMMAND that the English Church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably in their fullness and entirety for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever.

Both we and the barons have sworn that all this shall be observed in good faith and without deceit. Witness the above-mentioned people and many others.

3100-2850 BCE

Menes, the first Pharaoh of the Egyptian dynasty, establishes codes of conduct for the Egyptian civilization.

1792-1750 BCE

Babylonian King Hammurabi issues the first written law code, the Code of Hammurabi, based on revelation from Shamash, the god of justice.

18th-15th Century BCE

The Five Books of Moses emerge, creating the foundation of the Jewish faith, The Torah. The Torah contains themes including common concern for the welfare and rights of others. Furthermore, the Ten Commandments establish a code of conduct toward others.

800-500 BCE

The Upanishads are written outlining the Vedic beliefs in the relationship between the individual soul, ultimate truth, and Karma as well as the belief that individual actions have ongoing moral consequences.

6th Century BCE

Cyrus the Great, King of the Medes and the Persians, issues the "Charter of Freedom of Mankind." It is considered the first charter of human rights.

551-479 BCE

K'ung Fu Tzu (pronounced Confucius in English) establishes the dominant moral and political philosophy in China, Confucianism. The highest Confucian virtue "Jen" is described by Confucius as the principle "to love all men."

509-44 BCE

Rome flourishes under a Republic. Roman values under the Republic emphasize selfless service to the community, individual honor, the necessity of the law, and shared power and decision making. The Roman Republic develops a representative government along with a judicial system. Both the Roman form of government and the Roman form of law become the basis for many later European legal codes still in use today. The Republic ends in 44 BCE when, after civil war, Julius Caesar is named Emperor for life.

479-431 BCE

A Golden Age takes place in Athens, under the leadership of Pericles. Athens experiments with Democracy in which there is widespread and direct participation by male citizens in the making of laws in the assembly on the basis of majority rule.

469-391 BCE

Chinese philosopher Mo-Zi expands on Confucian principles and advances the philosophy of "universal love" as a guiding principle of life. Because no benefit comes from destruction, Mo-Zi discourages large states from attacking smaller states.

451-449 BCE

The Twelve Tables, the Roman Republic's earliest attempt at a code of law, are created in order to prevent patrician public officials, who adjudicated most legal matters, from adjudicating the law based on their own preferences. The Twelve Tables become such a symbol of Roman justice that children are required to memorize them for the next four hundred years.

300 BCE

The Four Vedas, the primary texts of Hinduism, are recorded. These had been codified around 600 BCE, although the teachings pre-date that era. They establish a spiritual precedent found in later religions.

262-232 BCE

King Asoka of India issues his Edicts, emphasizing goodness, kindness and generosity.

45-44 BCE

Cicero writes his philosophical works on humanitas, which emphasize goodwill towards humanity.

27 BCE-476 CE

The Roman Empire develops natural law and the rights of citizens.

30 CE

11th Century Greek image of Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth, the central figure of the Christian faith, preaches virtues of "love thy neighbor as thyself" and for those without sin to "cast the first stone."

1st Century CE

The Tripitaka, the sacred texts of Buddhism, is transferred from oral to written tradition, establishing Buddhist community codes of conduct to maintain a harmonious spiritual community.

6th Century CE

The teachings of Muhammad are outlined in the Qur'an, which emphasizes racial and religous tolerance, charity and equality.

1096-1204 CE

Pope Urban II launches the First Crusade to wrest the Holy Land from the Seljuk Turks. Subsequent crusades follow. The Crusades represent the first incident of European Imperialism.

1215 CE

Magna Carta (not the original),
issued in 1225 by Henry III
of England, preserved in the
UK's National Archives

After England suffers a defeat at the Battle of Bouvines, English Barons rebel against King John and force him to sign the Magna Carta. The charter established that all free men had certain rights that even the king could not violate.

Magna Carta Timeline - History

he Magna Carta was a document or charter signed in June 1215 by King John and the Barons at Runnymede on an island in the river Thames. The charter reinstated old feudal contracts first drawn up in the times of William the Conqueror between the king and his people. The Barons wanted to limit the king's power. Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was at the centre of a dispute between King John and the Pope Innocent III. After the death of the previous archbishop, the Pope wanted Langton for the position but King John did not. Langton joined the Barons who opposed the King and it was through Langton's work that the new charter was drawn up.
John's Great Charter (the Magna Carta)

A large number of barons, led by Stephen Langton the archbishop of Canterbury, meet King John on an island in the Thames at Runnymede. They forced the king to sign the 'Great Charter' or Magna Carta that would limit the power of the monarchy. The barons insisted that the old feudal contract should be reinstated and that the king should abide by the laws that the rest of the population did. The feudal contract allowed the barons to run their own lands, renting it from the king but paying rent by supplying knights rather than money. This feudal system had been set up by William the Conqueror.

The Magna Carta is annulled

Pope Innocent III annulled the Magna Carta freeing King John from its limitations. The Pope annulled the charter on the grounds that the King only signed it because he was forced to and that the document was illegal. The Pope was prepared to support John against the rebel barons because he wanted him to take a key role in a new crusade.

A Brief History Of How Human Rights Changed The World

We made this really beautiful timeline about the history of human rights.

It starts at Magna Carta, 800 years ago, and takes you through the key events in the history of human rights. We had a lot of fun making it, deciding what was in and what was out. Obviously, there wasn’t room for everything, but we’re happy to take comments on how to improve it.

There are some subtle features in there, like the lines and dotted lines which represent the influence and the development of different articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. And can you spot the man bun?

The timeline is here. It’s lovely. Go now. But if you want more…

Below is a list of sources if you are interested in going further than the bitesize information on the timeline.

The Story of the Magna Carta

The Magna Carta resulted from the peace made between King John of England and about sixty of his rebelling barons. After preliminary negotiations with Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton as go-between, John and his party met the barons on 15 June at Runnymede meadow next to the Thames River. After several days of discussions, the document language was finally agreed upon, and on 19 June the barons elected 25 of their number as “Sureties” to hold title to certain of the king’s properties, including the Tower of London, in order to guarantee his compliance with the laws and liberties expounded in the Magna Carta.

Thus began the long legal process of putting limits on kingly, and by extension, governmental authority, and of granting explicit rights to the ruled. From the time it was issued, the Magna Carta became a symbol of freedom to the barons and the people, and kings in succeeding centuries were expected to affirm it.

This compact, originally between the king and his discontented barons, has been invested by time and later interpretation with power far beyond its original intent and far beyond any other single document in English law. The Magna Carta led directly to the English and United States Constitutions. More precisely,it gave protection to the rights of the nobles and common citizenry alike to be free of arbitrary actions against their persons or property by their sovereign. It has come to be recognized as the cornerstone of liberty and justice in the western world.

It is the well-spring of modern concepts of free speech, free association, the right to petition government for redress of grievances, the right to due process according the law of the land, to public and impartial trial at the hands of one’s peers, the right to travel freely in time of peace,and perhaps most important of all, recognition that even the sovereign is subject to the law of the land.

The Execution of King Charles I

The Cromwell House is the family home of Oliver Cromwell, in Ely, Cambridgeshire, England. It has been refurbished to show how it may have looked during Cromwell’s lifetime.

Parliament found King Charles I guilty and sentenced him to death. The body, with the head crudely stitched back on, was buried at St. George’s Chapel , Windsor Castle, adjacent to the bodies of King Henry VIII and his most beloved wife, Jane Seymour.

This chapel is one of the highlights of Windsor. Besides being the burial site of several monarchs and the wedding site of others, such as Edward VII, it is a fine example of late Gothic architecture, from just before the Reformation.

The Banqueting House , site of Charles’s execution, is also worth a visit. Built by order of Charles’s father, King James I, it is the handiwork of Inigo Jones , one of the great luminaries of 17th century English architecture.

After Cromwell’s death, it was clear that no one else enjoyed the confidence of both the army and Parliament, as he had done. His son Richard ruled as lord protector for less than a year. Then, for the sake of political stability, Parliament decided to invite the old king’s son to return from exile in France. He did so, being crowned King Charles II in 1660.


The division into real and personal is coincident to a great extent with that into immovable and movable, generally used by systems of law founded on the Roman (see Personal Property.) That it is not entirely coincident is due to the influence of the Roman law itself. [3] The Greeks and the Romans of the republic were essentially nations of citizens the Teutons were essentially a nation of land-folk the Roman empire bridged the gulf between the two. [4]

It is probable that the English land law was produced by the action of the policy adopted in the lower empire, finally developed into feudalism, upon the previously existing course of Teutonic custom. The distinguishing features of the Teutonic system were enjoyment in common and the absence of private ownership, except to a limited extent. The principal features of the old English land law before the Conquest, from which the modern law has developed, were:

  1. liberty of alienation, either by will or inter vivos, of such land as could be alienated, chiefly, if not entirely, bocland, subject always to the limits fixed by the boc
  2. publicity of transfer by enrolment in the shire-book or church-book
  3. equal partition of the estate of a deceased among the sons, and failing sons among the daughters
  4. cultivation to a great extent by persons in various degrees of serfdom, owing money or labour rents
  5. variety of custom, tending to become uniform, through the application of the same principles in the local courts
  6. subjection of land to the Trinoda necessitas, a burden imposed for the purpose of defence of the realm.

The rudiments of the conceptions of tenure and of the Crown as Lord Paramount were found in the old English system, and leenland was an anticipation of the limited interests which afterwards became of such importance. [5]

Such terms as "fee" or "homage" derive from feudal times. Rights of common and distress are based upon still older institutions, forming the very basis of primitive law. The conception of tenure is the fundamental ground of distinction between real and personal estate, the former only being strictly entitled to the name of estate. [4]

The formal start of an English law of real property came after the Norman Invasion of 1066, when a common law was built throughout England. The new King, William the Conqueror, started standardising England's feudal rules, and compiled a reference for all land and its value in the Domesday Book of 1086. This was used to determine taxes, and the feudal dues that were to be paid. Feudalism meant that all land was held by the Monarch. Estates in land were granted to lords, who in turn parcelled out property to tenants. Tenants and lords had obligations of work, military service, and payment of taxation to those up the chain, and ultimately to the Crown. Most of the peasantry were bonded to their masters. Serfs, cottars or slaves, who may have composed as much as 88 per cent of the population in 1086, [2] were bound by law to work on the land. They could not leave without permission of their Lords. But also, even those who were classed as free men were factually limited in their freedom, by the limited chances to acquire property. The Commons Act 1236 allowed the Lord of a Manor to enclose any manorial land that had previously been common, and the Statute of Westminster 1285 formalised the system of entail so that land would only pass to the heirs of a landlord. The Statute Quia Emptores Terrarum 1290 allowed alienation of land only by substitution of the title holder, halting creation of further sub-tenants. The civil liberties of the Magna Carta of 1215, and its reissue in 1297, were only meant for barons and lords, while the vast majority of people were poor, subjugated and dispossessed.

Breakdown of serfdom Edit

Feudalism had not always been a part of English society, rather than being positively imposed by the monarchs prior to the Norman Invasion. [6] However, from 1348 everything changed as the Black Death swept through Europe, killing a third of the population. People like the poet Geoffrey Chaucer had seen subservience as part of a natural social order, ordained by God. [7] But if landowners had themselves survived the plague, the peasants' labour on the land had become very scarce. Ironically, the surviving peasants were in a greater position of economic power, in claims or bargaining for wages. Feudalism began to break down. [8] First, serfs could undergo "commutation", where the lord simply agreed to accept money rents from tenants instead of labour services. This did not mean freedom itself, but abandoning forced labour and payments in kind to landlords meant the open evidence of servility was concealed. In disputes, royal courts were increasingly biased toward declaring a peasant was free. Second, through an act of manumission lords could voluntarily grant freedom and this was increasingly done, after the plague, if the serf or a relative made a payment of money. Third, the common law stated that if a serf lived on free soil, as in a chartered town or Royal demesne land, for a year and a day, they would become free. [9] The nobility and the King reacted to the rising bargaining power of the peasantry by fixing wages, [10] and violently suppressing any uprisings, like the Peasants' Revolt in 1381. [11] Yet this combination of factors, slowly but surely, meant that by 1485 just one per cent of the population were left in bondage. [12] Formal subservience was increasingly seen as a social scar. In 1523 Justice Anthony Fitzherbert wrote that the remainder of bondmen was "the greatest inconvenience that now is suffred by the lawe." [13]

Feudal tenures Edit

By the time of the Norman Conquest, elements of feudalism existed in England from the rule of the Anglo-Saxon and Danish kings to the degree that it was easy to introduce it in full. What the Norman Conquest did was not to change all at once allodial into feudal tenure, but to complete the association of territorial with personal dependence in a state of society already prepared for it. [ citation needed ] Nulle terre sans seigneur was one of the fundamental axioms of feudalism. There might be any number of infeudations and subinfeudations to mesne lords, but the chain of seigniory was complete, depending in the last resort upon the king as lord paramount. Land was not owned by free owners owing only necessary militia duties to the state, but was held of the king by knight-service. The folkland became the king's land the soldier was a landowner instead of the landowner being a soldier. Free owners tended to become tenants of the lord, the township to be lost in the manor. [14] The common land became in law the waste of the manor, its enjoyment resting upon a presumed grant by the lord. On the other hand, the whole of England did not become manorial the conflict between the township and the manor resulted in a compromise, the result of which affects land tenure in England to this day. But it was a compromise much to the advantage of the privileged class, for in England more than in any other country the land law is the law of the nobility and not of the people. One reason of this is that, as England was never so completely feudalized as were some of the European continental states, the burden of feudalism was not so severely felt, and has led to less agitation for reform. [4]

The land forfeited to the Conqueror was re-granted by him to be held by knight-service due to the king, not to the mesne lord as in European continental feudalism. In 1086 at the council of Salisbury all the landholders swore fealty to the crown. In the full vigour of feudalism the inhabitants of England were either free or not free. The free inhabitants held their lands either by free tenure or by a tenure which was originally that of a non-free inhabitant, but attached to land in the possession of a free man. Free tenure was either military tenure, called also tenure in chivalry, or socage (including burgage and petit serjeanty), or frankalmoin, by which ecclesiastical corporations generally held their land. The non-free inhabitants were called in the Domesday Book servi, cotarii, or bordarii, and later nativi or villani, the last name being applied to both free men and serfs. All these were in a more or less dependent condition. The free tenures all exist at the present day, though, as will appear later, the military tenures have shrunk into the unimportant and exceptional tenure of grand serjeanty. The non-free tenures were to a certain extent represented by copyhold in later centuries until final abolition in 1925. [4]

The most important difference between the military and socage tenures was the mode of descent. Whether or not a feudal benefice was originally hereditary, it had certainly become so at the time of the Conquest, and it descended to the eldest son. This applied at once in England to land held by knight-service as far as regarded the capital fief. The descent of socage lands or lands other than the capital fief for some time followed the old pre-Conquest rule of descent. Thus, in the so-called "Laws of Henry I", the lands other than the capital fief and some socage lands were divided among all the sons equally. But by the time of Henry de Bracton the course of descent of lands held by knight-service had so far prevailed that if there was no evidence either way descent to the eldest son was presumed. Relics of the old custom still remain in the case of gavelkind. The military tenant was subject to the feudal incidents, from which the tenant in socage was exempt. These additional fees and obligations were often oppressive. Alienation of lands by will, except in a few favoured districts, became impossible alienation inter vivos was restrained in one direction in the interests of the heir, in another in the interests of the lord. At the time of Glanvill a tenant had a greater power of alienation over land which he had purchased than over land which he had inherited. But by the time of Bracton the heir had ceased to have any interest in either kind of land. The lords were more successful. It was enacted by Magna Carta that a free man should not give or sell so much of his land as to leave an amount insufficient to perform his services to his lord. In spite of this provision, the rights of the lords were continually diminished by subinfeudation until the passing of the Statute of Quia Emptores. Alienation by a tenant-in-chief of the crown without licence was a ground of forfeiture until 1327, [15] when a fine was substituted. [4]

The influence of local custom upon the land law must have become weakened after the circuits of the judges of the King's Court were established by Henry II. Jurisdiction over litigation touching the freehold was taken away from the lord's courts in 1392. [16]

The common law as far as it dealt with real estate had in the main assumed its present aspect by the reign of Henry III. The changes which have been made since that date have been chiefly due to the action of equity and legislation, the latter sometimes interpreted by the courts in a manner very different from the intention of parliament. The most important influence of equity has been exercised in mortgage and trusts in the doctrine of specific performance of contracts concerning real estate, and in relief from forfeiture for breach of covenant. [4]

Medieval conveyancing Edit

The reign of Edward I is notable for three leading statutes, all passed in the interests of the superior lords. The 1279 the Statute of Mortmain [17] was the first of a long series directed against the acquisition of land by religious and charitable corporations. In 1285 the statute De Donis Conditionalibus [18] forbade the alienation of estates granted to a man and the heirs of his body, which before the statute usually became on the birth of an heir at once alienable, and so the lord lost his escheat. The statute Quia Emptores [19] preserved those rights of the lords which were up to that time subject to be defeated by subinfeudation, by enacting that in any alienation of lands the alienee should hold them of the same lord of the fee as the alienor. Since 1290 it has been impossible to create an estate in fee-simple to be held of a mesne lord, or to reserve a rent upon a grant of an estate in fee (unless in the form of a rent-charge), or to create a new manor. The statute, however, does not bind the crown. The practical effect of the statute was to make the transfer of land thenceforward more of a commercial and less of a feudal transaction. The writ of elegit was introduced by the Statute of Westminster II in 1285 as a creditor's remedy over real estate. It has, however, been considerably modified by subsequent legislation. [4]

From 1290 to the reign of Henry VIII, there is no statute of the first importance dealing with real estate. The reign of Henry VIII, like that of Edward I, is signalized by three acts, the effects of which continue to this day. The one which has had the most lasting influence in law is the Statute of Uses, intended to provide against secrecy of sales of land. As a necessary sequel, the Statute of Enrolments required all bargains and sales of land be duly enrolled. Bargain and sale was a form of equitable transfer which had for some purposes superseded the common law feoffment. It applied only to estates of inheritance and not to terms of years. The unforeseen effect of the act of 1535, Enrolment of Bargains of Lands, etc. [20] was to establish as the ordinary form of conveyance until 1841 the conveyance by lease and release. Uses having become legal estate by the Statute of Uses, and therefore no longer devisable, the Statute of Wills [21] (explained by the Wills Act of 1542) [22] was passed to remedy this inconvenience. At least as late as 1911, it remained law as to wills made before 1838. [4]

After feudalism had broken down, and the number of serfs had dwindled, the law saw more and more people as being formally free from a landlord. However people's de facto freedom was still constrained because they had no property themselves.

Enclosures Edit

More landlords were enclosing pastures that had been open for commoners to use, and destroying people's houses, especially for sheep farming. The crown, and Lord Chancellors like Sir Thomas More, had opposed this to some extent, with a series of Anti-Enclosure Acts from 1489. These required that any houses destroyed be rebuilt, but if not half the additional profits would go to the Crown. The Crown itself claimed an inherent right to any valuable metals found on land in 1568, [23] and people who had less than four acres of land were prohibited from building homes by the Erection of Cottages Act 1588. The final, formal end of feudal land tenure in England came only after the English Civil War. When the monarchy was restored Parliament ensured with the Tenures Abolition Act 1660 that landlords' obligations of service and military provision were replaced by monetary payments and an annual payment financed by taxation.

Changes in equity Edit

Over the same period, behind the momentous shifts in land's social significance, legal developments in the law of property revolved around the split between the courts of common law and equity. [24] The courts of common law (the Court of Common Pleas and the Court of the King's Bench) took a strict approach to the rules of title to land, and how many people could have legal interests in land. However, the King had the power to hear petitions and overturn cases of common law. He delegated the hearing of petitions to his Lord Chancellor, whose office grew into a court. During the crusades, landowners who went to fight would transfer title to a person they trusted so that feudal services could be performed and received. But some who survived had returned only to find that the people they entrusted were refusing to transfer title back. They sought justice with the Lord Chancellor, and his Court of Chancery determined that the true "use" or "benefit" of the land did not belong to the person on the title (or the feoffee who held seisin). Unlike the common law judges, the Chancellor held the cestui que use, the owner in equity, could be a different person, if this is what good conscience dictated. [25] This recognition of a split in English law, between legal and equitable owner, between someone who controlled title and another for whose benefit the land would be used, was the beginning of trust law. It was similarly useful among Franciscan friars, who would transfer title of land to others as they were precluded from holding property by their vows of poverty. [26] Uses or trusts were also employed to avoid the payment of feudal dues. If a person died, the law stated a landlord was entitled to money before the land passed to heir, and the whole property under the doctrine of escheat if there were no heirs. Transferring title to a group of people for common use could ensure this never happened, because if one person died he could be replaced, and it was unlikely for all to die at the same time. King Henry VIII saw that this deprived the Crown of revenue, and so in the Statute of Uses 1535 he attempted to prohibit them, stipulating all land belonged in fact to the cestui que use. However, when Henry VIII was gone, the Court of Chancery held that it had no application where land was leased. Moreover, the primacy of equity over the common law was reasserted, supported by King James I in 1615, in the Earl of Oxford’s case. [27] The institution of the use continued, as new sources of revenue from the mercantile exploits in the New World decreased the Crown's reliance on feudal dues. By the early 1700s, the use had formalised into a trust: [28] where land was settled to be held by a trustee, for the benefit of another, the Courts of Chancery recognised the beneficiary as the true owner in equity.

In the reign of Elizabeth the Fraudulent Conveyances Act 1571 [29] and 1584 [30] avoided fraudulent conveyances as against all parties and voluntary conveyances as against subsequent purchasers for valuable consideration. Early in the reign of Charles II the Tenures Abolition Act 1660 turned most feudal tenures into tenure by free and common socage and abolished the feudal incidents. The Statute of Frauds contained provisions that certain leases and assignments, and that all agreements and trusts relating to land, should be in writing. The land registries of Middlesex and Yorkshire date from the reign of Anne. Devises (gifts by will) of land for charitable purposes were forbidden by the Charitable Uses Act of 1735. [31] In the next reign the first general Inclosure Act, the Inclosure (Consolidation) Act 1801, was passed. [32] In the reign of William IV fines and recoveries were abolished and simpler modes of conveyance substituted, [33] and the laws of inheritance and dower were amended. [4] [34]

Industrial revolution Edit

Over the 18th century, the law of real property mostly came to a standstill in legislation, but principles continued to develop in the courts of equity, notably under Lord Nottingham (from 1673 to 1682), Lord King (1725–1733), Lord Hardwicke (1737–1756), Lord Henley (1757–1766), and Lord Eldon (1801-1827). [35] As national and global trade expanded, the power of a new monied class of business men was growing, and the economic and political importance of land was diminishing with it. The moral philosopher and father of economics, Adam Smith, reflected these changes as he argued in The Wealth of Nations that landowners' position allowed them to extract rents from others in return for very little. [36]

In the 19th century, a growing liberal movement for reform produced three major results.

Conveyancing and registration Edit

First, there was increasing pressure to dismantle the privileges of the landed aristocracy. This included the view that all land should be put on a register, so as to ease its ability to be marketed. The Land Transfer Act 1875 introduced a voluntary system, but it was not taken up. After the 1906 general election the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, in his People's Budget of 1909 introduced a tax on land to force it onto the market. [37] This provoked a constitutional crisis, as the hereditary House of Lords vetoed it, forcing fresh elections. But the Liberal government was returned and it abolished the Lords right of veto in the Parliament Act 1911. By then, land registration reforms were a minor political issue and only really opposed by solicitors who earned sizeable conveyancing fees. [38] Eventually, the Land Registration Act 1925 required any dealing with property triggered compulsory registration. [39]

In the reign of Victoria there was a vast mass of legislation dealing with real estate in almost every conceivable aspect. At the immediate beginning of the reign stands the Wills Act 1837. The transfer of real estate was simplified by the Real Property Act of 1845 [40] [41] and by the Conveyancing Acts of 1881 [42] and 1882. [43] Additional powers of dealing with settled estates were given by the Settled Estates Act 1856, later by the Settled Estates Act 1877, and the Settled Land Act 1882. [41] Succession duty was levied for the first time on freeholds in 1853. The strictness of the Mortmain Act was relaxed in favour of gifts and sales to public institutions of various kinds, such as schools, parks and museums. The period of limitation was shortened for most purposes from twenty to twelve years by the Real Property Limitation Act 1874. Several acts were passed dealing with the enfranchisement and commutation of copyholds and the preservation of commons and open spaces. The Naturalization Act 1870 enabled aliens to hold and transfer land in England. The Felony Act 1870, abolished forfeiture of real estate on conviction for felony. The Agricultural Holdings Acts 1883 and 1900, and other acts, gave the tenant of a tenancy within the acts a general right to compensation for improvements, substituted a year's notice to quit for the six months' notice previously necessary, enlarged the tenant's right to fixtures, and limited the amount of distress. By the Intestate Estates Act 1884 the law of escheat was extended to incorporeal hereditaments and equitable estates. Among other subjects which have been dealt with by legislation in the 19th century may be mentioned land transfer, registration, mortgage, partition, excambion, fixtures, taking of land in execution, declaration of title and apportionment. [4]

The Law of Property Act 1925 was meant to reduce the number of legal estates to two, and to make easier the transfer of interests in land.

Court reform Edit

Second, the Court of Chancery, though it may have mitigated the petty strictnesses of the common law of property, was seen as cumbersome and arcane. It was subjected to ridicule in books like Charles Dickens' Bleak House and his fictional case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, an inheritance question or dispute that nobody understood, dragged on for generations and ended in costs having devoured the property held in chancery (chiefly for safekeeping). [44] Largely this was because there were only two judges administering equitable principles, so from 1873 to 1875, the common law and equity courts were merged into one hierarchy. Under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1875, equitable principles would prevail in case of conflict. [45]

Political reform Edit

Third, in most counties and boroughs, the ability to vote for Members of Parliament had been tied to possession of property in land. From the Great Reform Act 1832, to the Reform Act 1867, and the Representation of the People Act 1918, the connection between property and the vote was gradually reduced and then abolished. Together with the Parliament Act 1911, a more democratic constitution had emerged, though it was only in 1928 that the voting age for men and women became equal and only in 1948 that the double votes and extra constituencies for students of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London were removed. [46] By the end of the First World War, the power of the old landed aristocracy had largely been broken.

Over the twentieth century, and following on from the 1925 reforms, land law became increasingly social in character. First, from the Housing Act 1919 and the post war government's policy of building "homes fit for heroes" more and more houses were built, and maintained, by local governments. In private accommodation, new rights were enacted for tenants against their landlords, with some security of tenure and rent regulation, a break on unfettered "freedom of contract". The Housing Act 1980 enabled enfranchisement by introducing a "right to buy" one's council home accompanied by a settled policy of cutting government funding of social housing which was growing as concrete tower blocks and other forms of cheap construction became heavily criticised by socialists and capitalists alike. Rights for short term lessees (tenants) and constraints on rent were reduced accompanied by putting tenancies in a standard six-month authorised form of tenancy, procedure for eviction, and providing a settled definition of "fit for habitation" under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

Second, property was increasingly used as a source of finance for business, and similarly became source of profit for banks, mortgage lenders and real estate investment trusts. This fact drove changes in the market for mortgage regulation, while the growing financial interest in land tended to conflict with family life. As the UK came closer to gender equality, women as much as men contributed to the purchase of homes, as well as contributing to raising families and children. In 1970, in Pettitt v Pettitt, Lord Diplock remarked that "the wider employment of married women in industry, commerce and the professions and the emergence of a property-owning, particularly a real-property-mortgaged-to-a-building-society-owning, democracy" had compelled courts to acknowledge contributions to the home and family life as potentially generating proprietary interests. [47] However, if banks sought to repossess homes from people who had defaulted on mortgage repayments, the courts were faced with a choice of whether to prefer those economic interests over social values. The membership of the United Kingdom in the European Convention on Human Rights meant that article 8, on the right to a private and family life, could change the freedom of banks or landlords to evict people, particularly where children's stability and upbringing were at stake, though by the early twenty-first century the case law had remained cautious. [48]

Third, land use in general was subject to a comprehensive regulatory framework. The old common laws between neighbours, of easements, covenants, nuisance, and trespass were largely eclipsed by locally and democratically determined planning laws, [49] environmental regulation, and a framework for use of agricultural resources.

The Land Registration Act 2002 replaced previous legislation governing land registration. As of 2008 [update] , the Act, together with the Land Registration Rules, [50] [51] [52] regulates the role and practice of HM Land Registry.

Magna Carta

The Magna Carta was a document signed by King John after negotiations with his barons and their French and Scots allies at Runnymede, Surrey, England in 1215.

There they sealed the Great Charter, called in Latin Magna Carta. It established a council of 25 barons to see John keep to the clauses, including access to swift justice, parliamentary assent for taxation, scutage limitations, and protection from illegal imprisonment. [1]

Because he was forced to seal the charter, John sought approval to break it, from his spiritual overlord Pope Innocent III. Denouncing it as "not only shameful and demeaning but also illegal and unjust", the Pope agreed. The Magna Carta is still considered one of the most important documents ever written, having inspired the way we view issues of justice and liberty and influenced laws regarding such throughout the world.

The Magna Carta has influenced English law right down to the present day. It is one of the most celebrated documents in the History of England. It is recognized as a cornerstone of the idea of the liberty of citizens.

The Magna Carta contains 63 clauses written in Latin on parchment. Only three of the original clauses in Magna Carta are still law today. One defends the freedom and rights of the English Church, another confirms the liberties customs of the City of London and other towns. This clause (translated) is the main reason the Carta is still famous:

"No free man shall be seized, imprisoned, stripped of his rights or possessions, outlawed, exiled. Nor will we proceed with force against him except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice". [2]

This clause limits the power of rulers, and introduces the idea of lawful process and the idea of a jury. The BBC summarised the main points of the document as: [3]

  1. No one is above the law, not even the king.
  2. Everyone has a right to a fair trial.
  3. No taxation without representation.

The BBC said the Magna Carta "established a number of important principles, which have been copied around the world. It inspired the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights". [3]

The origin is in the medieval feudal system, in which the King's word was law. It solved, at the time, a conflict between King John and his main men: the barons and bishops. Dispute grew between the barons and bishops and King John over taxes and disputes with the Pope.

The barons chose their time to put John under pressure. John had lost a battle against the French, been excommunicated by the Pope (1209–1213), and feared civil war at home. He met the barons at Runnymede, 20 miles south-west of London, in June 1215. The negotiation was managed by John's half-brother, William Longspée, and Elias of Dereham, steward to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton.

The content of the Carta was designed to re-balance power between the King and his subjects, but especially between John and the barons. When King John set his seal on Magna Carta he conceded the fundamental principle that even as king he was not above the law. That meant kings would not have as much power as they did before. The Carta also laid down rules of inheritance, and that convictions required some kind of official process. It stated that people had rights not to be unlawfully imprisoned. In other words, the king is bound to rule within the law.

Thirteen original copies of the Carta were made and distributed. Only four survive today. The four copies are in The British Library, The Bodleian Library, Lincoln Castle and Salisbury Cathedral. The Magna Carta was sent out again in 1220 by Henry III. In 2009 UNESCO recognized it in its Memory of the World register. [2] The British Library brought all four copies together in February 2015, so that scholars could examine them side by side. [3]

Watch the video: Magna Carta - History of Britain B03 (January 2022).