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The Magna Carta is arguably the greatest constitutional document in recorded history, yet few people today understand either its contents or its context. This Very Short Introduction, which includes a full English translation of the 1215 Magna Carta, introduces the document to a modern audience, explaining its origins in the troubled reign of King John, and tracing the significant role that it played thereafter as a symbol of the subject's right to protection against the absolute authority of the sovereign. Drawing upon the great advances that have been made in our understanding of thirteenth-century English history, Nicholas Vincent demonstrates why the Magna Carta remains hugely significant today.
Nicholas Vincent is Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia.