Individuals engaging in the study of law could certainly be described as a curiosity-driven and knowledge-seeking bunch. The William & Mary Law School community supports the intellectual curiosities of its students, faculty, and staff by hosting a wide variety of speakers to discuss various topics related to law. In fact, one of my many New Year resolutions for 2015 has been to attend more of the school’s speaker events. Thankfully, I was able to make strides toward accomplishing my resolution early, as educational speaker opportunities began as soon as winter break ended.
One especially interesting event I attended was a program to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. For those that need a quick history refresher, the Magna Carta was a charter signed by England’s unpopular King John in 1215 that asserted certain rights the monarchy could not remove from its subjects. The legacy of the Magna Carta has had a profound impact on “rule of law” legal theory, including an influence on the legal framework of early United States law.
After an introduction by Dean Douglas, three very distinguished speakers took turns discussing the Magna Carta from a variety of perspectives. The first was William & Mary’s own Professor Tom McSweeney. As one of the nation’s leading experts on the Magna Carta, Professor McSweeney spoke about how the Magna Carta’s impact was not limited to the 1215 document. In fact, McSweeney argued that the lesser-known later amendments to the Magna Carta defined the charter’s legacy more profoundly than the terms of the original document. Following Professor McSweeney, Professor A.E. Dick Howard of the University of Virginia Law School discussed the impact that the Magna Carta had on American constitutional theory, a topic that was particularly relevant to my constitutional law class this semester. Lastly, Sir Robert Worcester, chair of the United Kingdom’s Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, spoke about his own legal experience abroad and how the Magna Carta has maintained a global influence.
I thoroughly enjoyed attending the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary program, and I know I was not the only one. Many of my fellow students attended as well, and I was able to recognize a variety of professors and librarians also in attendance. It was great to see such an enlightening event get so much attention from the law school community, and I am very much looking forward to the next presentation I attend.
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