The previous WW2 ‘experience’ in the museum focussed on ‘hinge’ points during the war, giving not a comprehensive overview of the conflict, but using artefacts from the collection to look at turning points such as D-Day, Dunkirk, the Battle of the Atlantic and so on. This was great for those of us who like seeing ‘things’, but those objects were frequently lacking context – the big picture was missing, and certain theatres were very poorly represented (most of the war in the Far East, for example, even the Eastern Front to a large degree). This made for a very anglo-centric history of the war, diminishing its global nature.
Although 800 years old, the two copies of the Magna Carta in the exhibition aren’t, in themselves, impressive. One was damaged by fire in the 1700s, then brutally ‘restored’ by an incompetent Victorian, so is completely unreadable. The other is a piece of parchment about 60x40cm covered in small dense text – no seals, no illuminated letters, no pictures (see above).
And a great deal of the content is unimpressive as well – the removal of fish weirs from the Thames and the Medway, a clause saying that no town will be forced to build bridges over rivers, and a great deal about inheritance rights. So what is it that gives Magna Carta its reputation as a cornerstone of freedom and democracy? Continue reading “Magna Carta – did she die in vain?”