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The Church and the Charter

The Church and the Charter

Thomas Andrew explores the forgotten Christian contributions to our most iconic legal document – Magna Carta. (2015)

The Church and the Charter puts these forgotten Christian contributions right back at the heart of the Magna Carta’s story. In exploring the difficult historical relationship between the religious and secular authorities in England, it assesses how and why the church helped place certain limits on the powers of the English monarch. In practical terms, it demonstrates the role played by the ‘new Becket’, Archbishop Stephen Langton, who was so crucial to both the emergence and the survival of the 1215 Magna Carta.

More significantly, however, it explores the ideological relationship between Christian theology and the most celebrated of the ideas that came to be enshrined in the Magna Carta – ideas about the importance of due process, the legitimation of arbitration in the affairs of the king, and the extension of rights language to all free men. It argues that these were notions rooted, not in secular thought, but in a medieval theology that had been profoundly affected by the development of canon law.

In the year in which we mark its 800th anniversary, The Church and the Charter shows that the Magna Carta is a document shaped by the history of religious thought, just as much as it is an expression of ‘secular’ demands. And it deserves to be remembered and celebrated as such – as a seminal document in the development of political thought that owes a great debt to both the political clout of the English church, and to the ideological reflections of Christian theology.

Foreword by Larry Siedentop.


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