Magna Carta

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Magna Carta means 'Great Paper' in Latin. Its full name is Magna Carta Libertatum, or 'Great Charter of Freedoms'. Magna Carta was issued in 1215 in England as an attempt to guarantee certain legal rights. It was negotiated between King John (reigned 1199-1216) and a group of rebellious barons who felt that he was taking too much power. John's failure to implement Magna Carta led to a civil war (the 'First barons' War'). Magna Carta now has iconic status as "the most significant influence on the process leading to the role of constitutional law today" and "one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy", although it has been much misquoted, altered and adapted for a number of heterogeneous political purposes in the eight centuries since it was signed.

Magna Carta includes several documents under a common name. It was reissued in different forms in 1216, 1217, 1225 and 1297. Magna Carta explicitly protected certain rights of the King's subjects, the most notable being the right of Habeas Corpus, meaning a right not to be imprisoned unlawfully. Many clauses were renewed throughout the Middle Ages, and further during the Tudor and Stuart periods, and the 17th and 18th centuries. By the early 19th century most clauses in their original form had been removed from English law.