‘Magna Carta – Statute or Myth?’
Thursday 2 April, 2015, 5.15 pm
School III, St Salvator’s Quadrangle
Sir John Baker, Downing Professor Emeritus of the Laws of England at St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge, will give a paper entitled ‘Magna Carta – Statute or Myth?’.
Magna Carta has had an immense influence on hearts and minds, and even events, over the last eight hundred years. Yet it is not always understood that this has been achieved more by magic than by operation of positive law. Much of the text was obsolete or obsolescent five hundred years ago, and what remained was difficult even for the lawyers of those days to interpret. In any case, no remedies were provided for private subjects in case the words were not observed by the king. The lecture will address some of these legal difficulties and outline how and when they were overcome.
Professor Sir Baker’s research interests include English legal history, especially in the early-modern period; history of the legal profession and the Inns of Court; and manuscript law reports and readings. Alongside his academic career, he is a Barrister at both the Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn, and an Honorary Bencher at the Inner Temple.
His substantial list of publications most notably includes the Oxford History of the Laws of England, Volume VI: 1483-1558 (2003) and the frequently reprinted Introduction to English Legal History (1st ed. 1971, 2nd ed. 1979, 3rd ed. 1990, and 4th ed. 2002). However, he has also published extensively on the Inns of Court, including Readings and Moots at the Inns of Court in the Fifteenth Century (2000) and most recently The Men of Court 1440 to 1550: A Prosopography of the Inns of Court and Chancery and the Courts of Law (2012). He has further edited numerous collections of manuscripts and reports, including The Reports of Sir John Spelman (1977), The Reports of William Dalison, 1552-1558 (2007), and Reports from the Time of Henry VIII (2003–04).
The lecture will be followed by a wine reception in the Lawson Lecture Room, Kennedy Hall, School of English.