Magna Carta

Is it time for a new Magna Carta?

by Colin R. Turner

On June 15th 1215, King John of England met a rebellious group of English barons in a meadow by the Thames to discuss peace terms in an effort to avert civil war. Deeply unpopular and his kingdom in turmoil, the king wasted little time in agreeing to the barons’ terms and affixing his royal seal to their Magna Carta Libertatum (Great Charter of the Liberties) – or Magna Carta as it later became known.

The Magna Carta was written by Stephen Langton, the then Archbishop of Canterbury to create a better deal for the church and royal subjects. It enshrined things like church rights, basic civil liberties, respect for property rights, a fairer taxation system, and – perhaps most significantly – an end to royal impunity from the rule of law. This was especially welcome in a time when the royals were essentially omnipotent despots who murdered, pillaged and taxed their subjects at will.

Although the document did not ultimately prevent civil war and was re-drafted many times before being entered into the statute, its fundamentals have historically stood as the founding cornerstone of democracy and human rights that we know today.

Even though much has changed in the world since medieval times, it’s quite surprising also how little has changed. We still have a virtually untouchable ruling elite, who can buy influence or legal defence to avoid being accountable to the law. We still have unfair ‘taxation’ in the form of high costs of basic food and shelter. We still have poor human rights – not just in tyrannical regimes – but in all so-called ‘free market’ countries where the labour system begets poverty and the coercion of people into lives they would not otherwise choose, just to afford a modest level of survival.

Obviously things have improved dramatically in the last eight hundred years, but shouldn’t we have evolved by now beyond this absurd oligarchy-supervised fight for survival – given the extraordinary technological advances of the last two hundred years?

And, considering the critical damage inflicted on our environment in the race for profit, our insane rate of resource consumption, and an inequality gap that continues to grow and grow, isn’t it time we started doing things radically differently?

Is it perhaps time for a new Magna Carta, fit for the 21st century?

I certainly think so. So I wrote one.

Free World Charter

Your comments are always very welcome.


Author: Tony

Born and raised in Malaysia between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Educated at Wycliffe College in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, England. Living in the foothills of Mount Etna since 1982 and teaching English at Catania University since 1987.

8 thoughts on “Magna Carta”

  1. Thank you Tony for this story, I found it very interesting.

    I remebered that Magna Carta was the fundamental charter of the British monarchy, but what was totally unknown to me was the fact it is “the founding cornerstone of democracy and human rights that we know today”.
    And the explanation of why it still is, is very interesting and nice to read.

    Reading the text, I’ve found a lot of new words and for lots of them you already provided the meaning: I’ll try to memorize all of them listening the file audio in the next days.

    I noticed the word “avert” and searching on the web the difference with “avoid” (whose meaning I’ve already known), I’ve learned that “avoid” means “you took steps to prevent something”, and “avert” means “you stopped something while it was going on and prevented it”.

    If you agree, I’ll try to write some example with these two words between today and tomorrow, posting them on Ingliando Chatroom.

    Usually, I’m not used to signing online petitions, but I think this one it is something different, so I’ll reflect about it (I don’t have much time to read it carefully, I’ve to work…).


    1. “Avert” and “avoid” are often similar in meaning but there is a subtle difference which is important at times. “Avert” is where you take positive action to ensure that something does not happen. “Avoid” is where you simply remove yourself from the danger area. This differrence is not always important however.

      The Free World Charter has some good principles. It won’t be easy for our society to change directions now that neo-liberalism has got such a strong hold on everybody, but I think it’s a good thing to try! 🙂


  2. Reading the Magna Carta today I feel grabbed by the same excitement that I experienced in front of the Magna Carta and the Rosetta Stone during my visit in London; two small objects able to modify the human condition. Without a shadow of doubt, slavery, inequality, injustice and discrimination, are still present worldwide in disguise. No one of the Magna Carta rights is actually accomplished, but Democracy is an aim always in progress rather than an arrival. The question that requests an answer is: what can I do for a better world?


    1. Hi Giuseppe,thank you for your comment on this latest publication. I see that we are on the same wavelength! Your comment is also very well written, but I would like to make just a few small improvements:
      1) …during my visit TO London…
      2) …NOT ONE of the Magna….HAS actually BEEN accomplished…
      3) …question that REQUIRES an answer…
      Have a great day! 🙂


  3. Really interesting! I think I’ll sign it…we should sign it with our daily commitment. Thanks!


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