"This is a lecture for intelligent men and women who may wonder whether Magna Carta really merits all the hype of the past year. Over the centuries a temporary peace treaty in a civil war became a myth, a kind of foundational myth for an intangible British constitution that may not exist and certainly is not available for reading. Its importance for Western liberties is more celebrated in the US than in England, not to mention the other three parts of the United Kingdom. A returned ex-pat who has spent half his career teaching in the United States, I shall take my text from Oxford alumnus David Cameron’s article on ‘Magna Carta and British Values’ published in The Daily Mail a year ago to mark the 799th anniversary of the Great Charter's first promulgation at Runnymede further down the Thames Valley. I shall examine both documents briefly but critically and tell you what I celebrate about the event, the occasion and the values and liberties they proclaim — and why I enjoy studying such things."
Professor Paul Hyams is an historian who held a Fellowship at Pembroke from 1969 to 1989, before spending the latter years of his teaching career at Cornell University. He has published widely on medieval history.