The Magna Carta


英语世界 2020年10期

Cath McLellan

1. In 2015 the UK celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta, which means ‘Big Charter or ‘set of rules, was a document signed by King John. At that time in England, the King had a lot of power, but he was very unfair. He made people pay a lot of taxes, even when they didnt have any money. He took land from people and stole the food that they had grown.

2. The barons of England were very angry and they wanted things to change. So they went to London and took control of the city until King John agreed to meet with them. They made him sign a document with new rules about what the King could and couldnt do. It was the first document that clearly explained the idea that ‘all men are equal. For the first time, ordinary people had freedom and could disagree with the king. Also, it would be ordinary people, not the king, who decided when someone had broken the law.

3. Many people think that the Magna Carta was the first time a country recognised human rights. Some of its rules still exist in many countries today, including the UK. For example, you cannot put someone in prison unless you can prove they have done something wrong. Eight hundred years later, these rules still protect us so that everyone can live freely.

4. These days, you can visit Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed. It is near London, by the River Thames. Today you can see a sculpture that celebrates different people from around the world who have fought for freedom. It reminds us exactly how important the Magna Carta was.

Activity 1

Check these words and phrases in a dictionary or online. Then put them into sentences 2–8. Change the form of the words and phrases if you need to.

1. Nelson Mandela made sure he protected human rights in South Africa.

2. Henry is in prison now because he ______ and the police arrested him.

3. Our teacher had to leave the classroom so Mr Smith ______ and gave us all extra homework at the end of the class.


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4. If you want to improve your salary and timetable at work, you will have to ______ it.

5. Finally the government ______ that climate change is real and that people need to do something to stop it.

6. Jenny ran ______ around the supermarket and her father didnt stop her.

7. In the past, ______ had a lot of power and helped to decide the rules of the country.

8. Ben loved the ______ of living on his own and not having to follow his parents rules any more.

Activity 2a

There are four paragraphs in the text (1–4). Match the headings (a–d) to each paragraph.

The beginning of important rights

Not a king for ordinary people

Art to celebrate freedom

Changing the rules

Activity 2b

Choose the best answer, a, b or c, for each question.

Why was King John unfair?

He had a lot of power.

He didnt follow the same rules as other people.

He ate too much food.

Why did John meet the barons?

Because they had taken control of London.

Because they were angry.

Because he wanted them to sign a document.

What was an important new idea in the Magna Carta?

Ordinary people could break the law.

The king could disagree with ordinary people.

Everyone had the same human rights.

Why is the Magna Carta still important today?

Because many countries still have its rules.

Because there are fewer people in prison.

Because it is very old.

What can you see at Runnymede today?

People who have fought for freedom.

A piece of art.

A copy of the Magna Carta.

Activity 3a

‘Today you can see a sculpture that celebrates different people from around the world who have fought for freedom.

That and who are examples of words we can use to talk about things and people. Can you match the words below with what we use them to talk about?

where   which or that   whose   why   when

Activity 3b

Now complete the sentences using one of the words from Activity 3a.

Example: Her favourite restaurant is the one which / that has vegetarian options.

My new office is just next to the river ______ I usually go fishing.

It was about half past three ______ I finally had lunch because I had a lot of work to do in the morning.

I really dont know ______ Rebecca always arrives late. Maybe she needs a new clock!

Clarence was the student ________ mobile phone was stolen during the break.

We want someone ______ can use computers to come and work with us.


Activity 1

2. broke the law; 3. took control; 4. fight for; 5. recognises;

6. freely; 7. barons; 8. freedom

Activity 2a      1. b; 2. d; 3. a; 4. c

Activity 2b      1. b; 2. a; 3. c; 4. a; 5. b

Activity 3a

a. which or that; b. when; c. where; d. why; e. whose

Activity 3b

1. where; 2. when; 3. why; 4. whose; 5. who/that

Activity 4

Which human rights should everyone have? Why?


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