Everything They Tell You About Magna Carta Is Wrong
It is a desirable - nay, essential - trait in this information-saturated and propaganda-puffed world to view any attempts at official 'celebrations' or 'commemorations' of historical events or phenomena with one's Sceptometer turned up to, and past, the setting called 'Overt Cynicism'.
Be it recalling a 'Glorious Revolution' which was neither; or marking the not-very-surprising longevity of people who have never had to work for a living; or even the memorialising (with appliquéd solemnity) of those jolly good chaps who left their limbs, wits or lives in the trenches by the heirs and successors of the very same caste of robber barons and usurers who sent them off to their destruction; whichever of these categories of egregious attempts to shampoo the past may apply, it is salutary and instructive to take a deeper look at the events, people or things being thus appropriated for official purposes. Because there we may find something more closely approaching the truth, and because it may lead to us understanding the processes by which The Majority Of Decent, Right-thinking, Law-abiding, Tax-paying, Cliché-ridden Folk™ can be deliberately misdirected into a froth of collective self-delusion about The Way Things Are and their actual place in it.
With this in mind, dear students, your reading list for today covers the lather of superficial readings of history and the veritable wind-turbine of international-grade English exceptionalism and willy-waving involved in the commemoration of the eight-hundredth anniversary of Magna Carta, deemed by the Official Version of Events to be the foundation document of human rights, and so nothing to do with all those nasty foreigners telling us what to do via a mechanism which we were instrumental in setting up in the first place, oh dear me, no.
The first is this blog post by David Allen Green giving a very brief overview of why Magna Carta is not what our organs of propaganda tell us it is; and, secondly and thirdly, the two talks by Supreme Court judge Jonathan Sumption to which Green links (both of them .pdf files, so you'll need Foxit Reader or - if you're desperately in need of program bloat, Adobe Acrobat - to read them), one on the spurious interpretations given to the significance of the Charter, and the second on the distinctions of significance between Magna Carta and the Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen of 1789.
(Don't be put off by the official title of the author; both addresses are eminently readable, clear, concise and at times wonderfully waspish).
(Thanks to Septicisle for the link to David Allen Green's piece).