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The results have now been condensed into the Commentary which fills two–thirds of the present volume.This attempt to explain, point by point, the sixty–three chapters of Magna Carta, embracing, as these do, every topic—legal, political, economic and social—in which John and his barons felt a vital interest, has involved an analysis in some detail of the whole public and private life of England during the thirteenth century.The Commentary is preceded by a Historical Introduction, which describes the events leading to the crisis of 1215, analyzes the grievances which stirred the barons to revolt, discusses the contents and characteristics of the Charter, traces its connection with the subsequent course of English history, and gives some account of previous editions and commentaries.
An endeavour has been made, by severe condensation, to find room in this new edition for whatever seemed relevant and of permanent value in this mass of new material, without sacrificing anything of importance contained in the first edition.
Monographs and contributions to periodical literature, devoted exclusively to Magna Carta, have been published in France, Germany and the United States of America, as well as in Great Britain; while few books have appeared on English medieval history or on the development of English law without throwing light incidentally on one or more of the Charter’s various aspects.
The last eight years have been fertile in discussions on the form and contents, the historical setting, and the constitutional value of the Great Charter.
numerous and weighty criticisms upon the first edition of this Commentary (published in 1905 and now out of print) were doubly welcome to the author as showing a widespread interest in the subjects discussed, and as enabling him to profit from the collaboration of eminent specialists in the elucidation of Magna Carta and of the age that gave it birth.
Latin Charters, of which the full text is given in the Appendix or elsewhere, have been printed as in the authorities cited in each case; but for detached Latin words or phrases, whether occurring in the Historical Introduction or the Commentary, a uniform spelling has been adopted, in which the “ae” diphthong, where appropriate, has been substituted for the less familiar “e.” The author’s grateful acknowledgments are due to the Trustees of the Carnegie Foundation, for a grant towards the expenses of this edition; to Professor Vinogradoff, for help courteously given in solving problems affecting the interpretation of chapter 34; and to Mr. Commentary upon Magna Carta has hitherto been written from the standpoint of modern research.