Magna Carta

Lesson objective

Learn about what Magna Carta (signed in 1215) means some 800 years later

Key idea: Magna Carta was the origin of many of our human rights.

Success criteria

  • Describe in very general terms why Magna Carta was created
  • Identify some clauses that are still relevant today, and some that are no longer relevant
  • Think of some new rights you might include in a new Magna Carta for today

Introduction to the learning

Show a video or some images of conditions or activities that bring the importance of Magna Carta up to the present day. For example a boat carrying asylum seekers. Be sensitive in case of children of asylum seekers in the class.  Be sensitive also to any harrowing scenes.

(Work in pairs when you can). Summarise in a few sentences what gave rise to the writing of Magna Carta.

Support activities: What was the quarrel between the King and his barons and the church about? See worksheet MC1 for some ideas.

At the end of the lesson you will be able to pin point some benefits for citizens of today that started with Magna Carta.

Main body of lesson

(Work in pairs when you can):

Using the worksheet choose one or two of the clauses and interpret their meaning for people today.

Choose one or two of the clauses and see if you can link them to clauses in the Human Rights Act code.

Choose one or two of the clauses that you think only relate to life at the time they were written and say why.

(Join another pair when you can) and compare results of your research and see where you agree and disagree and justify your position.

Extension activities

(In pairs when you can), imagine you are going to add some clauses (write out one) to Magna Carta to protect ordinary people today.

To help you do this think of powers and forces in society that affect people's lives and over which they have little control.

  • Think of newspapers and their intrusiveness;
  • think of companies and organisations that produce emissions that affect air quality and cause climate change;
  • think of loan sharks who hold poor people to ransom with excessive interest rates etc;
  • think of people fleeing persecution and war.

Teacher assessment

Teacher questioning of individuals and groups, teacher checking of work with worksheets.


  • Historical note on the King and his barons
  • Some clauses in Magna Carta


Hodder Education

Citizenship studies

AQA GCSE (9-1) 2016

British Library Magna Carta exhibition