Magna Carta

Its Role in the Making of the English Constitution, 1300-1629

Faith Thompson

Magna Carta was first published in 1948. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

This important study in English constitutional history is the story of the Magna Carta from the end of the reign of Edward I to the dissolution of parliament and the completion of Sir Edward Coke’s Commentary (1300-1629).

Miss Thompson surveys the various ways, practical and theoretical, in which the Charter was used by groups and individuals in English society. She examines the pertinent sources and finds that the Charter was never eclipsed in the later Middle Ages or even in the Tudor period and that its reinterpretation in the early Stuart period was not an abrupt and novel phenomenon. The statesmen who transformed a charter of feudal “liberties” into a charter of “liberty of the subject” were using a document with a long history and a reputation already made in plea rolls and Year Books, parliament and statute rolls, law treatises, and even chronicles.

Miss Thompson provides considerable background material to support her emphasis on this process of interpretation, and she clearly interprets the character and motives of successive sponsors of the Charter.

The value of Miss Thompson’s study is in the unusual thoroughness of her treatment of Magna Carta and in her corrections of misconceptions about the role the Magna Carta has played in the making of the English constitution.

Faith Thompson was an associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of The First Century of Magna Carta: Why It Persisted As a Document (1925), also published by the University of Minnesota Press.

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