In case you have not noticed it with Google Doodle, but the Magna Carta is 800 years old today. As I am a medievalist, I had to mention it on this blog. I cannot be trivial all the time. I am of two minds about the celebrations of the Magna Carta (about which I am no specialist, by the way, in case you wanted to ask me questions on the matter). I am glad history is remembered and celebrated, and it is always good that we remember such essential event. Heck, I was an academic in another time, I am happy academia itself has a bit of spotlight with this anniversary! And as a republican, I am also happy when a monarch is humiliated, so if only for this it deserves to be celebrated.
On the other hand, it is also an exercise of English self-flattery. Don't get me wrong, the Magna Carta is an important document for the history of this nation and the Western world. But it is absurd to imply, as I have heard by some commentators on the TV (or the telly as we call it here), that the UK has been a democracy and its people free for the last 800 years. I also find a downright aberration the English centrist view of history that has been displayed with the anniversary. It reminds the history seminars of my Master degree, when the teacher (English) had to explain to the British students that the end of the War of the Roses did not mark the end of the Middles Ages, contrary to what they have been told at school. Because in a wider European context, the War of the Roses was absolutely meaningless and did not change the time period. Yesterday, I heard a historian saying that other similar texts existed in other European kingdoms. So let's not forget this as well.
On This Day
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