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Book cover of 1215: The Year of Magna Carta

1215: The Year of Magna Carta

by Danny Danziger, John Gillingham

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
ISBN: 9780743257787

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Synopsis of 1215: The Year of Magna Carta

Surveying a broad landscape through a narrow lens, 1215 sweeps readers back eight centuries in an absorbing portrait of life during a time of global upheaval, the ripples of which can still be felt today. At the center of this fascinating period is the document that has become the root of modern freedom: the Magna Carta. It was a time of political revolution and domestic change that saw the Crusades, Richard the Lionheart, King John, and — in legend — Robin Hood all make their marks on history.

The events leading up to King John's setting his seal to the famous document at Runnymede in June 1215 form this rich and riveting narrative that vividly describes everyday life from castle to countryside, from school to church, and from hunting in the forest to trial by ordeal. For instance, women wore no underwear (though men did), the average temperatures were actually higher than they are now, and the austere kitchen at Westminster Abbey allowed each monk two pounds of meat and a gallon of ale per day. Broad in scope and rich in detail, 1215 ingeniously illuminates what may have been the most important year of our history.

Publishers Weekly

Magna Carta is considered a foundation of modern freedoms, yet it is deeply rooted in the unique facts and political situation of 13th-century England. This excellent study is not only about the document itself but also about the context in which it can be fully understood. Danziger (The Year 1000) and Gillingham, professor emeritus of history at the London School of Economics, head each chapter with a passage from the Great Charter and elucidate the daily experience and issues that underlie it. While the first chapters elaborate on how both average folk and elites lived, worked, hunted, married, studied, played and went to church, later chapters get deeper into the meaning of the document itself. Marvelous details about daily life abound, while myths and misperceptions are firmly swept away. The infamous King John, who signed the Great Charter, moves slowly to center stage against the background stories of his parents, the legendary Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine; his brother Richard Lionheart; and other great figures of the day, both historical and mythical, including Robin Hood and Thomas Becket. When the reader reaches the climactic chapter, in which the barons force the Charter on John, the document has jumped off the pedestal on which tradition has placed it and become a living thing. The event itself and the details of the document show how age-old practices and last-minute concessions shaped the text (which is included in its entirety). Danziger and Gillingham make it clear that the Magna Carta was not an abstract thesis, but a brilliant response to a particular time and circumstance. Map. (June 15) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

About the Author, Danny Danziger

Danny Damziger was brought up in England and America. Now an award- winning columnist for The Sunday Times, he is the author of eight books, including the bestselling Eton Voices and The Year 1000. He is currently writing a book on the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

John Gillingham is professor of history at the London School of Economics and the author of a number of highly regarded academic works on the Middle Ages, as well as the popular history Medieval Britain: An Introduction.

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