Magna carta, common law values and the constitution



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9, its continuing status as an unrivalled emblem or symbol of individual liberty and the supremacy of the law has been celebrated in a way which testifies to considerable cultural potency, not only for constitutions based on or derived from it, but also for contemporary conceptions of democratic civil society.

To take just one example, Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Reeds of Runnymede" contains the couplet:

"At Runnymede, at Runnymede,


Your rights were won at Runnymede!"
The couplet depends on shared history and a certain mythopoeic acceptance of Magna Carta as a touchstone in a shared legal and political culture. Even if Magna Carta begged questions it singularly failed to resolve, its "spirit" has been said to remain alive for just on 800 years. Why is that? What is the continuing importance of Magna Carta, if any, for us here in Australia in May 2014?

The distinguished medieval historian Sir James Holt described Magna Carta as "an assertion of law originally conceived in aristocratic interests"




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