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1215: The Year of Magna Carta

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  1,475 Ratings  ·  136 Reviews
From bestselling author Danny Danziger and medieval expert John Gillingham comes a vivid look at the signing of the Magna Carta and how this event illuminates one of the most compelling and romantic periods in history.

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
Paperback, 312 pages
Published June 15th 2005 by Coronet (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 17, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it
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.
Sarah(All The Book Blog Names Are Taken)
John, you rascal. Yay for mentions of Eleanor of Aquitaine and William Marshal. Full review to come.


Rating: 4 Stars

I really enjoyed Danzinger's book 'The Year 1000', so I had high hopes for this one for a number of reasons. First, I like his writing style. it is conversation without being condescending about academics. Secondly, I was hopeful (and correct) that Eleanor of Aquitaine
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.
Dec 23, 2014 Arminius rated it really liked it
The book 1215 is more than just a book about the Magna Charter. It is history of the time period between 1200 and 1300.

The Crusades had a good write up on how Richard the Lion hearted captured Palestine and Cyprus however he failed to capture Jerusalem. He did however negotiate a free passage for Christians to visit the holy city. Richard became a legend. So did Saladin the leader of the Muslim cause. He was known for his never breaking a promise. He also invented the "jihad" (holy war against
Jul 23, 2012 Monica rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 18, 2010 Siobhan rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, 2010
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’
Michael Connery
Oct 24, 2015 Michael Connery rated it really liked it
Danny Danziger and John Gillingham’s “1215: The Year of Magna Carta” attempts to simplify a tumultuous time in history and make the climate of the thirteenth century accessible to the modern reader. The result is a riveting read.

Rather than looking at the Great Charter itself, “1215” provides a reference for life in the British Isles, particularly in England, in that pivotal year. Full of intriguing details, the book gives the reader a glimpse of the social and political currents of the day.

Jan 17, 2015 anna rated it really liked it
Generally, a great introduction to the social context and the 'world' of the Magna Carta, everything from Political Culture, to Law and Order, rural and social life.
An era that saw the birth of the English Legal system, and the establishment of Europe's Great Universities and centres of learning- of which one was said to have been home to the legendary female physician, Trotula.

Only the chapter on the 'Wider World'-which inevitably includes the Crusades did I have some argument with. Saladin w
Aug 16, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid 4. 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 ...more
Jan 09, 2013 Caitlin rated it liked it
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
Jun 29, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-history
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
Aug 12, 2009 Elisse rated it liked it
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
Feb 21, 2015 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Informative, light survey of England and the Continent around the time of the Magna Carta. I read this in conjunction with a course by the University of London ("Magna Carta 1215-2015") celebrating the 800th advent of the signing of the original Great Charter. This book provided me an anthropological foundation for the more politically-focused details offered by the online course.

The authors divide the book into chapters devoted to exploring different aspects of life in early 13th C
Apr 30, 2008 liirogue rated it really liked it
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
Tom Darrow
Jul 06, 2012 Tom Darrow rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 18, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed this. A very accessible read from which I learnt a lot. Very useful background read to Medieval England, including relations with its neighbours.

I liked the themed way it was set out eg Town, Countryside, School, Church, King, Forest etc and the link throughout to Magna Carta, the clauses of which end the book.

I can see why we've never had another K John. What a scheister! Interesting chapter on the significance of Magna Carta, mystical/mythical and otherwise. Happy 800th birthday MC!
Sep 05, 2015 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, london, medieval
This is a great introductory text for anyone interested in the High Middle Ages! I was lucky enough to see the Magna Carta in person, and after that, I think the only way it could be better would be an actual photograph of the original document!
May 11, 2016 Athena is currently reading it
This is a great book but I can only do one chapter a month … it's hard to get too involved with the 13th century when I know the catastrophic 14th is waiting in the wings to wipe it all out. Plague! Cold! War! Famine! I'm watching all these sweet busy little people in the 13th century knowing there's a giant 'oh HELL no!' headed right for 'em. Kinda depressing in all its 'The 13th Century was GREAT' cheeriness.
Feb 13, 2013 Diana rated it really liked it
The was a wonderful, quick read. The book breaks down the main parts of the Magna Carta into chapters and deals with them seperately. It also doesn't just deal with how the document affected the aristocracy, it lets people know the affects to the average person. I also liked how it also went into the actions of King John, that caused the Magna Carta to be written. I highly recommend it as a great history book.
Nov 30, 2015 Ton rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good introduction to the time and circumstances in which Magna Carta was drafted. The authors do a good job of explaining what was actually going on in England (and the continental Plantagenet domains), and why a Great Charter was necessary. A short, concluding chapter is dedicated to the myth of Magna Carta, and a translation of the charter is also included.
Feb 06, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It is very readable, articulate, intelligent, informative. Thematic histories are often dull reading but the authors of 1215 demonstrate that this doesn't have to be the case.
Chris White
An easy read, though at times the authors invoke the tone of a high school term paper. There are also more than a few instances where they intrude upon an otherwise faultless historical narrative with unwelcome and ill-fitting analyses and apologies for events, overlaying upon 13th century realities 21st century perspectives. In this they protest too much, and the hermeneutic is not only unwelcome but also rather absurd. I would have really enjoyed it if Danziger & Gillingham were a bit more ...more
Sep 05, 2014 4ZZZ rated it liked it
Shelves: history, england
Good popular history. Odd title though as it is a general history of the era, not really a book about 1215. No footnotes but a nice bibliography.
Phillip Taylor
Sep 13, 2008 Phillip Taylor rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all political historians
Recommended to Phillip by:

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
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
Robert Isenberg
Mar 14, 2009 Robert Isenberg rated it really liked it
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
Apr 23, 2008 Tony rated it liked it
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
Apr 08, 2010 Linda rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
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
May 27, 2011 Gaile rated it really liked it
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
Jan 27, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
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
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