1215: The Year of Magna Carta

Written by Danny Danziger John Gillingham
Review by Audrey Braver

This is the biography of a year that brought an unprecedented change in government and rights of the governed. The Magna Carta sets forth rights and privileges enjoyed today by people in the United Kingdom, North America, and other parts of the world. While the title suggests the information imparted is confined to the year 1215, nothing really happens in a vacuum. As in every momentous event, it is necessary to explain what led up to it, as well as any repercussions. Descriptions of historical politics, life in castle, country and town with glimpses of family life, hunting in the forests, who could go to school, and the responsibilities of a king’s man enrich this book. The original Magna Carta was signed, under duress, by King John, and reconfirmed with editions by Henry III in 1216. The text of the Magna Carta is given and worth comparing to modern documents that set forth peoples’ rights.

The authors’ impeccable research is put forth in an elegant narrative style. Subject matter that could be very dry is smoothly presented with vivid descriptions that capture and hold the reader’s interest.