Tag Archives: Magna Carta

CMEMLL Annual Lecture: Professor Sir John Baker (University of Cambridge)

‘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?’.

2014-15 - John Baker


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.

All welcome.

Reading Group: Drafting Magna Carta

Tuesday 21 October, 2014, 1-2 pm
Stephen Boyd Room, Kennedy Hall, School of English 

John Hudson, Professor of Legal History at the University of St Andrews, will lead a reading group entitled ‘Drafting Magna Carta’.

This reading group will involve a close comparison of the famous Magna Carta of 1215 and a preceding set of demands known as The Articles of the Barons. Drawing on these texts, we will consider issues of the minutiae of drafting, of these and other documents; the composers of the Charter; and political thought.

The texts for the reading group Latin texts of Magna Carta and the Articles of the Barons, colour coded to show the differences between them; and translations of the two documents, unfortunately not colour coded.  Attendees should look at the texts in advance.

The colour code is:
Red – clause unique to one of the two documents
Blue – rephrasing of part of or whole clause
Green – Minor (e.g. grammatical) change to one wond
Black – common to both documents
Purple – a single word in one document replaced by another word in the other
Texts can be accessed here:

Professor Hudson’s research interests began with law and land-holding in twelfth-century England, and this subject has remained central to much of his subsequent work, leading up to his recent volume of The Oxford History of the Laws of England, 871-1216 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).  Some of his legal history work plays with the applicability to mediaeval situations of ideas from modern legal theory; this work is furthered by his visiting association with the University of Michigan Law School, where he enjoys the title of William W. Cook Global Law Professor. He has two other main areas of research interest –  one is mediaeval historical writing, mostly in England, and the other is nineteenth-century writing on the Middle Ages, and in particular the work of the greatest of legal historians, F. W. Maitland.