MAGNA CARTA AND THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION

AQA POLITICS A LEVEL (7152)
3.1.1.1 - THE NATURE AND SOURCES OF THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION

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LEARNING OBJECTIVES

· Students should understand the historical context behind the signing of Magna Carta,

· Students should appreciate the ways in which Magna Carta influenced the development of rights and the British Constitution,

· Students should evaluate the extent to which the principles enshrined by Magna Carta are upheld in modern-day Britain.


LEARNING RESOURCES

· Reading extracts [CLICK HERE TO ACCESS]

· Video: Power To The People—The Principles of Magna Carta [Length: 07:52]

· Video: The New King Johns? People, Parliaments and Power [Length: 02:47]


Recommended Pre-Reading For Teachers

· Magna Carta: A Primer (The Road to Runnymede) pg. 21-26

· Magna Carta: A Primer (Magna Carta’s Provisions) pg. 29-36

· Magna Carta: A Primer (The Charter’s Long-Term Effects) pg. 47-51

· Magna Carta: A Primer (The Continuing Legacy) pg. 65-75


Key Questions

· Why did King John sign Magna Carta?

· What rights were enshrined in Magna Carta?

· How important was Magna Carta in the development of the British Constitution?

· How far does the political system of modern-day Britain reflect the principles of Magna Carta?


Activities

· Begin the lesson with a general class discussion on what students know about Magna Carta’s origins, purpose, and significance today.

· Explain to the class why King John signed Magna Carta in 1215. Emphasise that the rebel barons were responding to King’s punitive taxation policies, military defeats in France (e.g. the Battle of Bouvines in 1214), and John’s fraught relationship with the Church (e.g. the 1208 Interdict).

· Play the Power To The People—The Principles of Magna Carta video module and ask students to explain what political principles they believe are described in Magna Carta. Use this discussion as a primer for the next activity.

· Ask students to read the following extracts from the learning resources section, then ask them to write a short paragraph-long answer to the accompanying question from Extract 2. Pick students to read their answers and discuss with the whole class:

Extract 1: from Q&A: the legal significance of Magna Carta

Extract 2: from Magna Carta: A Primer

· Play The New King Johns? People, Parliaments and Power video module. Ask students whether they agree with the argument expressed in the video—that the Magna Carta principle of democratic consent to taxation is threatened by the growing influence of the state. Emphasise the conflict between the individual rights of taxpayers and the collective rights of those who receive tax revenue.

· In September 2012, the then-Prime Minister David Cameron appeared on an American talk show and failed to provide the literal translation of Magna Carta (Great Charter). Relate this anecdote to students and use it as a starting point for a class discussion on whether Magna Carta is relevant to current political issues. One significant example is modern anti-terror legislation and its relation to the Magna Carta’s clauses on criminal justice: see Reading Extract 3 for useful discussion points.


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