1215: The Year of Magna Carta
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1215: The Year of Magna Carta

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  956 ratings  ·  93 reviews

Surveying a broad landscape through a narrow lens, 1215 sweeps readers back eight centuries in an absorbing portrait of life during a time of global upheaval, the ripples of which can still be felt today.

At the center of this fascinating period is the document that has become the root of modern freedom: the Magna Carta. Never before had royal authority been challenged s

Hardcover, 324 pages
Published January 23rd 2003 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published 2003)
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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
This is an interesting read.

It does not focus on the politics of 1215, except in brief in the last chapter or so, but looks at what England itself was like in John's reign, and why there was a need felt for such a radical document.

It also, incidentally, indicates why when John was succeeded by a regency for a minor (generally disaster in the medieval period) in 1216, it was an improvement.
In 1215 in a place called Runnymede, a beleaguered king signed his name to what was originally called the Charter of Liberties. We know it better as Magna Carta, the Great Charter. Its impact is with us today, and not only in England. It is a document that enshrines liberty, that provided the world with the first glimmers of the freedoms we treasure today. Words of the U.S. Constitution echo Magna Carta.

At the time, though, the stirring words about freedom, found among the latter clauses, weren’...more
I picked up this book from my stash before heading out on a plane--mostly for it's size. In hardcover, it's a relatively small book in dimensions, so easy to pack in a computer bag.

Luckily, it's also very interesting, and I found myself anxious for the "how to use a seat belt" speech to end so I could get back to my book. Rather than an indepth look at the Magna Carta, and the players, it's instead a study of the time period and the culture that gave rise to the Magna Carta. What is was like in...more
My husband saw this text in my armload of library books.
Why are you reading that? he asked.
Because it's my right, I retorted. My God-given right.
Have wanted to read this since I listened to the wonderful The Year 1000 as an audiobook. It did not disappoint. The early chapters especially demonstrate what it was like actually to live in England during the time of the Magna Carta. Castles, villages, education, the church, all with myths exploded. For example, love indeed was considered to be important in a marriage. Not everyone was religious, many people were literate, speculation existed that plenty of agnostics and even atheists were aro...more
A very good overview of multiple aspects of 13th century English life. The authors are adept at keeping the writing fresh and interesting, and they walk a fine line between providing too much detail for the casual reader and glossing over too much for those that are looking for a deep, historical discussion.

Unlike some other reviewers, I really liked the narrative structure. It did not seem choppy to me at all - rather, it was obviously divided into chapters covering different subject matters. T...more
I rather think that Danny D. is a terrible writer. He tends to go off on tangents and feels the need to add information on sexual acts/women's bodies/random crude topics. Personally, I would have enjoyed this book more if it actually spoke of the Magna Carta more and at least related it to the topics in each chapter better. If you want to find out random information in the Medieval time frame, read this. Beware, there are statistics and facts that contradict themselves, not sure if the authors a...more
1215 is not so much a book about the Magna Carta as it is a book about the years leading up to it. It covers an entire range of topics on life then, from the church to royalty to science to home life. It's full of interesting facts. However, I did have a few problems with its organization. It addressed the years topic by topic, and often I would find I had forgotten entirely about the Magna Carta and why it was written. The chapter about the actual writing of the Magna Carta is not preceded by t...more
Tom Darrow
Very good book. The authors take the somewhat dry topic of the Magna Carta and weave in social history and many contemporary sources in such a way that it is easy to read. Instead of a standard historical treatment of the Magna Carta, the authors show English society in the late 1100's and early 1200's via the document. They break their coverage up into sections (ex. a chapter each on warfare, church life, life for townspeople, King John's life, etc) and discuss how each of them operated and gav...more
Phillip Taylor
Sep 13, 2008 Phillip Taylor rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all political historians
Recommended to Phillip by: richmondchambers@btconnect.com

And, yes... whatever your other contributors have said.... this is, without doubt, a great read for those with little knowledge of the Magna Carta and its significance to the way of life of the British Isles as it then was.

However, the story is about the year 1215 itself as well, and the reader relives a fascinating date with history. You feel you are there, just as long...more
In realtà non è tanto un libro sulla Magna Carta quanto un resoconto generale sul regno di Giovanni Senzaterra e su come si viveva nel 1215.
È velocisssimo da leggere e non dice niente di nuovo, ma è carino per chi non vuole sobbarcarsi un'intera biografia su bad King John il quale, però, ebbe un regno senza dubbio pieno di rivolgimenti e per niente noioso. Alcune delle cose per le quali viene ricordato: essersi perso i gioielli della Corona nel Wash; aver fatto uccidere il nipote adolescente e...more
I started reading "1215" as research for my book about Castle Isenberg - the signing of Magna Carta and the tragedy of Friedrich von Isenberg occurred in the same decade, and I figured this popular history could offer some insight into the early 13th century world. The book starts off VERY slowly, with meandering descriptions of town and country life; the importance of royal forests; early education and care of children, etc. The authors seem to have an axe to grind, so to speak: They try to deb...more
As an American student, the Magna Carta was barely touched upon, and never really explored (in my experience at least). I came across this browsing the non-fiction stacks, and decided that I could do with refreshing on the topic.

The book is a more non-linear, and casual study of life at the time, and the events that lead up to the Magna Carta than it is a straight history. It's more like: family life was like this, this is how the Magna Carta changed it; or, Law and Justice were like this, this...more
The authors provide a social and cultural snapshot of England in the year 1215, and the genesis of this most vaulted of constitutions - the Magna Carta. Firstly, they set the date in context by commenting that at this time Genghis Khan captured Peking and the Crusades were at their height. It was also a time in which monastic orders were founded and the Fourth Lateran Council under Pope Innocent III gave lasting shape to the teaching and structure of the Catholic Church. The authors focus on dif...more
From the legend of Robin Hood, many Americans have a sketchy idea of King John and his evil sheriffs, taking from the poor to give to the rich. Turns out, it didn't exactly happen that way. Authors Danziger and Gillingham have taken a slice out of history, examining a single year under a microscope, and have produced a useful and entertaining image of the lives of commoners and kings. The topics they cover range from marital discord, to hunting and jousting, to religion, to the people's rebellio...more
People do not seem to have changed much in the intervening centuries since 1215. The men in power quarreled and dug in their heels much as politicians still do today. Somebody was lying. Somebody was cheating. Everyone was sinning and everyone was trying out to find out what scandal they could use against an enemy. People contradicted themselves all over the place. The pope after ex-communicating King John next declared the Magna Carta null and void. Other important men would find themselves fir...more
The history is well told in a comfortable way. King John was a real SOB, and his ineptitude, coupled with an intense paranoia and corrupt nature, lead to rebellion of the nobility and then to the Magna Carta. The story travels through the in and outs of: patronage, crime and punishment, marriage (not for love usually), ownership of property (or lack thereof), relationships between states, war, and political intrigue. My interest really perked up when the story moved into the genesis of the curre...more
James Bennett
1215 is surely one of the best history books out there. The writing is never less than assured and clear, with the odd moments of wit and flashes of insight. Rather than taking a textbook approach to Magna Carta, the authors take their time to build a picture of England and beyond in those times, everything from home life to education to the Church to forest law to politics, debunking several myths along the way. Romantic hooded outlaws and flat earth theories are both placed in realistic contex...more
Thoroughly engaging and informative, this book has excellent detail about life in the Middle Ages. My only criticism is that the chapters sometimes feel a little hodge-podge, and some of the political intrigue is hard to follow, spread out as it is over several chapters. On the whole, however, it is a remarkably easy read considering how much it covers.
Don O'goodreader
In 1215,

The medical science fashionable at the time taught that conception only occurred when male and female sperm coalesced,

and that women produced sperm only as a result of pleasure.

This was why, men said, prostitutes did not get pregnant.

In a mixture of the traditional history of kings and wars with the newer history of everyday life,

1215: The Year of Magna Carta chronicles 12th and 13th century England - a period familiar to you as the reign of King John, brother of Richard the Lion Hea...more
This is a fun little book that I will likely purchase. The authors evoke the lives of English subjects during the year that Magna Carta was devised, often very humorously. I found the likeness between their concerns and ours very instructive, as nothing has really changed in terms of the rich wanting to hoard power, the middle classes in working harder than the rich but claiming this as their virtuous lot, and the poor who figure there's nothing else in life but being hungry and uncomfortable. I...more
Raymond Brown
A very good read and concise in nature. Originally, I thought it would be more grounded int he specifics of the Charter and the details, however it portrayed more about the "times" during which the Charter was established (if you could say that it was "established").

The book was interesting in that it described the environment in which the Charter came about. What life was like during this time, the ineptness of the leadership, and the primal causes for the compromise with the King that was the...more
Superb history of King John & the English Barons whose "rebellion" resulted in the 1st steps of the evolution of English Constitutional government.
Jennifer Freitag
Just about everyone knows about the Magna Carta; thanks to Disney, most everyone is acquainted with John Plantagenet, King of England. In 299 pages (complete with a copy of the Magna Carta in the back), Danziger and Gillingham give an overview of England and Europe in and around the year 1215. They set the stage, they show the lifestyle, and while even at the time, and in the end, the famous charter was "an abysmal failure," one cannot fail to recognize that the Magna Carta of 1215 was, and stil...more
Carrie Graf
This book tells stories about what it was like to be alive in or around the year 1215. Life sounds surprisingly less miserable and disease/flea infested than I might have guessed, esp if one was the lord/lady of a manor. For instance, bathing in herb & rose infused water doesn't seem so rough. Nor does spending 6 hours of one's day eating, drinking, and entertaining. Sign me up! Things are a little less pleasant for their servants, but even they get a retinue of ladies-of-the-night at their...more
Disappointed. I really enjoyed their year 1000 book. Not sure if it is just a case of over dose.
Christopher Hivner
I was excited to read 1215, but ended up disappointed by it. It sets out to describe life in England before and after the signing of the Magna Carta. It also has a section with all the provisions in the MC. Some parts were fascinating while others were dull and left me pushing to get through them. I also didn't think there was enough depth to their history. Too many people and events are glossed over. The authors chose a very complex subject and tried to cram it all into a short, readable book....more
Donna Dozier
June 15th 2015 will be the 800 year anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by the Plantagenet King John. This book was an easy read, I feel I understand the life style of the elite and common citizen of England and the events leading up to the civil war that gave birth to Magna Carta and 561 years later the American Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. I recommend this book to home schooling parents who need to cover the Year 1200 to 1492.
An interesting book about the middle ages. I learned things like where the words "chairman" and "posse" come from... The chapter "Family Life," is only aptly named if you consider its lengthy treatment of infidelity fits your idea of what family life is -- I rather thought we would be favored with some middle ages parenting wisdom like "spare the rod" and all that stuff. Actually the organization of the book was very nicely done -- by the time I got to the meaty magna carta-ish part, I felt as t...more
David Ketelsen
This book gives context to the clauses in the Magna Carta. To do this the authors explain relevant European history that formed the conditions that led to the reining in of royal power and privilege. I was quite surprised by a number of things that the authors mention. For example, the Norman kings of England typically spent most of their time traveling from place to place and not ruling from one location, King John in particular, and King Richard didn't speak English---he only knew dialects of...more
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