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Magna Carta: Classroom Resources


We are continually adding new content to our Teacher Resources area, and among our new materials are three classroom handouts about the Magna Carta. The document’s origins date to June 1215, when a group of English barons forced King John of England to accept the sixty-three provisions of the Magna Carta (“Great Charter”) at Runnymede, England. The Magna Carta was not originally intended to secure rights for all English citizens. Rather, it was meant to assert the feudal rights of England’s barons, who had become disenchanted with King John’s rule. Soon after it was signed, John ignored the tenets of the charter and began warring with his barons again. Despite the motivations of the authors and signers, the document has come to symbolize the very foundation of civil liberties.

To help educators teach the Magna Carta, we’ve put together the following handouts: a graphic organizer, “Interpreting the Magna Carta”; “Five Things You Should Know about the Magna Carta,” the newest installment in our popular “Five Things” handouts; and a specially selected excerpt from the Magna Carta that focuses on clauses that have had a lasting impact on the relationship between a government and its citizens and that have carried over to the principles of American government. Still want to learn more about the document? Read our expert analysis by Matthew Fiorello and Michael J. O’Neal. This 5,000-word article offers an in-depth overview of the Magna Carta, including discussion of the historical context and the document’s authors, a section-by-section explanation of the document text, a timeline, and treatment of the Magna Carta’s intended audience and overall impact.

These resources are featured in the June issue of our free monthly “Teaching with Documents” e-newsletter, along with articles about TED, Eugene V. Debs’s “How I Became a Socialist,” and the National Archives Experience workshops. If you haven’t yet subscribed to our newsletter, you can do so now from our main teacher page.

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