Free online course on Magna Carta begins today

British Library's Magna Carta, photo credit Joseph Turp

A six-week online course begins today that will teach the history of one England’s most medieval important documents.

Freedom and protest: Magna Carta and its legacies is being taught by the University of London in partnership with Coursera. The free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is free to join (with the option of purchasing a verified certificate) and will run for six weeks, from June 15th to July 23rd. Starting on the anniversary of the 800th anniversary of the document’s creation, “the course examines why Magna Carta was radical in its day, why it has been a source of numerous debates, and why this anniversary is being celebrated in the present.”


The course will be taught by a team of five lectures from the University of London, and will follow this schedule:

Week 1: Magna Carta, Parliament and the Law 1215-1300 (Lecturers: Nigel Saul and Jonathan Phillips)


Learning outcome: to set the scene for studying Magna Carta; to show how Magna Carta became embedded in practice in England

Week 2: The reinvention of Magna Carta, 1508-1642 (Lecturer: Justin Champion)

Learning outcomes: to understand how the significance of the Magna Carta was reinvented in the context of the conflict between monarchy and parliament; to explore the use of Magna Carta in political cartoons

Week 3: The Whig Ancient Constitution, 1642-1776 (Lecturer: Justin Champion)

Learning Outcomes: to understand, and examine, how the ‘idea’ rather than the ‘event’ of Magna Carta became used by conservative and radical political groups; to understand the export of the tradition of Magna Carta into the American colonies

Week 4: Magna Carta and the wider world: constitution making (Lecturer: Emm Johnstone with others)


Learning outcomes include: to understand the significance of Magna Carta and its ideals in the establishment of constitutions and bills of human rights over the past two centuries

Week 5: Public history: memorialisation and memorials (Lecturer: Graham Smith and others)

Learning outcomes include examining the purposes of commemoration in modern society.

Week 6: Magna Carta: A History of an Argument c.1800-2015 (Lecturer: Graham Smith)

Learning outcomes include: to appreciate the complex and contested uses of Magna Carta in contemporary debates about human rights and the rule of law.

To learn more and sign up for this course, please visit the Coursera website