The Salem Witch Trials

Thirteen year old Martha Goodwin was possessed by the devil. She purred like a cat, barked like a dog and neighbours spotted her flying like a goose twenty feet high. At the very mention of chores or religious reading she stormed into a whirling rage. Whistling during prayer and laughing at the sick, her antics were beginning to affect other girls. She was under the spell of a witch and must be struck down. She was hung in Boston during the November of 1688. And that was that. It seemed like they had stopped the devil. Until two girls in Salem began acting strangely four winters later…

The New England colony was a dangerous place. A tiny settlement perched on the very edge of a continent they knew little about, it’s people were God fearing and paranoid. Neither English yet neither American, they faced the constant danger of famine, plague, attacks by the Indians or attacks by the French. Their founding fathers had fled the England of James I determined to create a ‘city on a hill’ for children of the reformation forced to flee persecution at home. Within two years of their arrival they all but destroyed the Pequot tribe in a brief conflict, selling the survivors into Caribbean slavery. Four decades later in the 1670s one in ten colonial men died during King Philip’s War – another massacre of their heathen neighbours. Around the time of the Goodwin family’s tribulations the people of Salem rebelled against their royal governor amid the backdrop of war against the French. During the harsh winter of 1691 it seemed like God had forgotten them. What had gone wrong? And who was to blame?

The cautionary tale of Martha Goodwin had gripped the colony. Books were penned and sermons spoken – witchcraft was never far away. 25 men had already been hung for it in the short history of New England. It was in this backdrop that the well-read and devious daughter and niece of Reverend Parris began showing the symptoms of witchcraft in the town of Salem. They complained of being pricked by pins and threw books around the room. When an audience appeared their symptoms got worse! Word got around and within the week three more Salem girls were showing their symptoms.

At the beginning of February a physician confirmed the worst – the girls were bewitched. The devil was in Salem, but who had summoned him and what did he want? In a matter of days the girls named names. Sarah Good the homeless beggar, Sarah Osborne the seldom churchgoer who married a wealthy man and Tituba the heathen Caribbean slave of the Parris girls had been fortune telling, dancing in the woods and even having sexual flings with demons. The accusations were supported by complaints from three respected male villagers. By March all three women were locked up in prison.

Four more names were named before Easter. One of these was Martha Corey, a respected townswoman who publicly questioned the validity of testimonies from teenage girls. She was definitely a witch. The interrogations were in full swing. The four year old daughter of Sarah Good unwittingly sentenced her mother when questioned by the deposition of witch hunters. The cold winter had turned to a hot summer. Accusations and arrests came thick and fast. Neighbours, friends, rivals and relations all named one another.

72 year old widow Ann Foster succumbed during her interrogation. The devil had indeed appeared to her in the form of an exotic bird alongside none other than her tempestuous neighbour Martha at his side. She and her daughter were arrested. The hunt was at fever pitch – you were with Salem or against it.

The first death was Sarah Osborne in her prison cell. On 2nd June a special court was created to sentence the witches who had overrun the town. Bridget Bishop was the first to be sent to the gallows. The main line of questioning at her trial was about her immoral lifestyle as symbolised by her black coat. It had been cut or torn in two ways, but why? Simple answer: she was witch.

The court were advised not to rely on evidence which came from dreams or visions but this was too little too late. Five days later and five more were hung. John Proctor, made famous by another victim of another witch hunt, Arthur Miller in The Crucible, issued a plea for his case (And that of his wife, son and daughter) to be heard outside of Salem where he could have a fair trial. He was found guilty. Why ask for a change of venue if you were innocent?

During the August 19th execution of George Burroughs, question marks were raised when he recited the Lord’s Prayer in the shadow of his noose. After all it was common knowledge that witches were unable to recite this prayer. This air of doubt was settled when the accusers confirmed that the devil recited it to him. Two days later the elderly Giles Corey was pressed to death with heavy stones because he refused to plea either guilty or not guilty. In all, twenty people were formally executed not to mention those who died in their lonely prison cells.

As the hot summer cooled, so did the mass hysteria of accusations and capital punishment. Temporary reprieves were given to Mary Bradury (77) and Abigail Faulkner (pregnant) so that they could consider their confessions. Nonetheless the death rattle lingered on. More trials were held in January and three were pronounced guilty but the governor decided to release them. Well, they had to pay their jail fees first and as a result one died in her cell.

One year on and Salem was beginning to contemplate their actions. Had the devil really cast a spell of witchcraft upon the town? Had this mass hysteria really started when two teenage girls mimicked the behaviour of a ‘witch’ they had read about? Interestingly one of the main accusers at the age of 25 publically apologised. She had not acted out of malice and wished no harm upon her neighbours; but the devil HAD told her to denounce innocent people.

So what caused the Salem Witch Trials? Scientific evidence has pointed to a rare fungus in grain which can induce visions and fits in those who ingest it. But perhaps the causes lie in the devious minds of bored young women whose accusations were merrily believed by a community riddled with fear, self doubt and anxiety. But what then of Martha Goodwin? Well maybe she was a witch…

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The Liverpool and Manchester Railway

The greatest inventions in history are created because they are needed. The wheel – transport. Writing – to record crops and trade. The machine gun – to efficiently kill. The trench – to avoid machine guns. The plane – spy on trenches. The rocket – to dodge the RAF and strike British cities. The first modern railway? Read on.

In the early 1800s Britain was the workshop of the world. Raw materials had barely arrived into bustling ports before they were bent and boxed into products ready to be bartered for and bought around the globe. Money was king and it seemed that Adam Smith’s invisible hand was guiding progress from beyond the grave.

This process was none more evident than the cities of Liverpool and Manchester. The former was the port built on profits of carrying slaves to America but now thrived on the cotton picked by the unfortunate descendants of their wicked trade. Manchester was the workshop in which great looms transformed the cotton into cloth. But there was a problem. The canals linking the cities could not cope with the 1,000 tons of cargo per day being hauled on the 31 mile trip. Unreliable in cold weather and heavily tolled by their aristocratic owners, the transport princess of the 1700s had become the ugly sister in a matter of a few short decades.

Market forces were again demanding the development of another invention in history. The covetous gaze of northern businessmen finally fell on metal tracks in mines. And why not? After all coal was the new gold. Heaps of crushed carbon were dragged from underground on metal tracks by donkeys before being emptied and rushed back down again. It was small scale but it worked. Between Stockton and Darlington carts were hauled by stationery engines at either end of short tracks then by horses in between. It was slow and laborious but it worked. The route between the two great northern cities involved hills, valleys and a deep stretch of marshland. It would also need an engine that would move with it’s carts. It was large scale but it could work.

A joint stock company dedicated to creating the railway was created May 1823 with investors from London, Liverpool and Manchester. It took three years to finally ‘convince’ the landowners on whose property the railway would cut through and enough members of parliament to support the bill through a vote before work could finally start.

It was on the shoulders of George Stephenson that the mammoth task was placed. He designed the smooth railway which would roll over the bog at Chat Moss, a viaduct at Sankey Valley and a two mile tunnel through rock at Olive Mount. Once this neared completion much debate centred upon what kind of engine would carry the freight and passengers along the line. Conventional thought pointed to the use of stationery engines at the end of line to drag the carts, but this was not a conventional project. Engineers asked for the chance to prove that a fast-moving engine could travel along the tracks instead.

It was finally decided to stage a competition for perspective locomotives. Each had to pull a load three times its own weight at a speed of at least 10 mph. This was to be held at Rainhill and the lucky winner would receive £500 and the honour of their invention being used on the railway. The clear victor was ‘The Rocket’ designed by George Stephenson. It was a simple design of a boiler with several tubes to heat up the water. Once boiling the pressure of the steam turned the wheels. Though not by any means efficient this machine certainly was effective.

Eleven months later the great railway opened to huge fanfare at both ends of the line and indeed the social spectrum. The political and landed classes gathered alongside working men and women to witness history. Though disaster struck as William Huskinson, a Liverpudlian MP, crossed the track to supposedly apologise to the Prime Minister Lord Wellington for a drunken remark the night before. Not hearing the approaching train on it’s first ever journey, he was struck and his legs crushed. The locomotive carried him to hospital where he died later that day. Rather bizarrely an Athenian style statue of him resides in a quiet corner of Pimlico.

The railway became a huge success. In it’s first year it carried almost half a million passengers not to mention thousands upon thousands of tons of industrial produce. Behind the scenes investors could not contain their delight as their shares regularly paid out a 10% annual dividend. The word was out; railways were in. With laws restricting the number of people permitted to invest in companies relaxed, investors from the landed gentry to the expanding middle classes threw their money into what became known as ‘iron horses’. Although there was considerable opposition to each projet, within twenty years thousands of miles of track zigzagged the country from Cardiff to Kent, Ealing to Edinburgh.

Perhaps the greatest impact of the revolution was the effect on regular people. The world felt like it had shrunk, well at least Britain did. Before the arrival of trains it took almost two weeks to get from London to Edinburgh – now it took six hours. Each town had had it’s own time zone however due to the confusion of timetables these were now co-ordinated by the picturesque London suburb of Greenwich. National sporting leagues were created as teams and their adoring fans could travel the length and breadth of the land for matches yet return home for work. And of course rules needed to be agreed upon so the likes of the FA and RFU were created. Families who would rarely leave their neighbourhood, village or town could now afford holidays courtesy of cheap rail travel.

The first railway had been created to whet the appetite of some industry owners in the north east yet it’s impact appeared to benefit all of society. The theory of capitalism which stated that people striving for their own gain without government interference would help all seemed to be coming true. However within decades millions lived in abject poverty and danger across the industrial cities of Europe with practically no chance of getting a foot on the bottom rung of society’s ladder which seemed eternally out of reach. The Liverpool and Manchester railway symbolised the greatness of the ingenuity of man yet also how this greed could exclude the masses from ever truly profiting from it.

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The Gin and Tonic

Gin Lane

Look at the picture above.

Now actually look at it and note at least three details.

I imagine you have picked up the lady with the open sores of syphilis dropping her baby, the man who could be dead or alive, the hanging body, the dentists? This picture was created in 1751 and is called ‘Gin Lane’. The message is quite clear – gin is having a detrimental effect on the lower classes of London. The purpose of the picture was to have gin banned, or at least regulated.Yet within a century this drink was the darling of the British Empire. Together with it’s partner tonic water they became known as the ‘G&T’. And they would save hundreds of thousands of lives. Indeed, Winston Churchill firmly stated, “The gin and tonic has saved more lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the empire.”

When the Dutch William of Orange was invited by parliament to become king of England in 1689, he and his wife Anne brought a penchant for genever with them. A trading embargo with France cut off the supply of bourbon so Britons were encouraged to distil their own liquor and what better drink to create than the one enjoyed by the royal family? By this stage though British soldiers had enjoyed genever when fighting alongside the Dutch during the Eighty Years War. Known for it’s effects of calming the mind before battle it gained the nickname of ‘Dutch Courage’.

Over the coming decades Londoners took to genever, now shortened to gin, like ducks to water. Adults and children alike drank over one hundred pints per year on average. When, in 1736, the government imposed high taxes to address the problem there were drunken riots. Distillers turned to making illegal gin and replaced the costly juniper with the deadly turpentine. Death became so commonplace that it was a contributing factor in the population of the city stabilising. So another law was passed 15 years later which seemed to quell the issue.

Not before long what was the scourge of the lower classes became the quaint tipple of the middle classes. Gin Palaces complete with shiny glass windows and twinkling gas lighting captured the imagine of those with newly found disposable income. Charles Dickens described them as, “perfectly dazzling.” Although gin was enjoying fleeting popularity alone, alongside tonic water it was to take the world by storm.

As ever necessity breeds invention and a growing problem for Brits abroad was malaria. Though largely eradicated in Europe it was a growing problem in India and the tropics. The answer came in the form of a bark from the Peruvian cinchona tree which was imported to Europe by the Spanish. This lifeline became vital in maintaining a healthy population of soldiers, civil servants, businessmen and sailors in the British colonies. By the 1840s 700 tons per annum were used by the British in India alone. The vital ingredient quinine was extracted and used in powder form as a daily malaria medicine for those in the tropics.

The powder was incredibly bitter so became mixed with soda and sugar to created ‘tonic water’. In 1858, one year after the British government took control of the vast colony from the East India Company, tonic water was commercialised. It was perfected in 1870 by the Schweppes company to satisfy the great demand. Unsurprisingly a glass of tonic water in the mornings was no replacement for tea. Perhaps inevitably, gin was added to the mix and what was once a reluctant morning routine became an afternoon delight. When the race for Africa began in earnest in the ensuing decade, Europeans brought immunity to a deadly disease in their drinks cabinets.

The final garnish of the gin and tonic was the wedge of lime. Since 1756 a small amount of lime had been added to sailors’ daily rum rations to prevent scurvy. Indeed the American term ‘limey’ for Englishmen came from this practice in the 1800s. Not before long pieces of lime found their way into the medicinal drink of gin and tonic. The G&T was finally born.

Now that you have finished this piece why not treat yourself to some history in a glass and enjoy some of my other articles?

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Would you have dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Following the detonation of ‘Little Boy’ 1000 feet above the centre of Hiroshima on 6th August 1945 the city became engulfed in a firestorm of biblical proportions. The river became a boiling inferno into which people whose skin had melted off like bacon jumped into for relief. A thick dark cloud, which later emitted black rain, blocked out the sun as the community descended into a loud piercing darkness. One girl who was driving a tram when the bomb exploded was so badly burnt that when she finally made her way home her parents could only identify her through her cracked voice. Most medicine in the well prepared city had evaporated away as their glass containers melted in the heat. These small details could not be recorded by the observation planes flying high above; they reported back that the mission had been a resounding success. At this stage, let’s discuss the title of this article – would you have dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

The argument first peddled out is that the dropping of the atomic bombs prevented one million American soldiers dying in a land invasion. This figure is grossly exaggerated and was predicted to be somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 men if the Allied forces did invade mainland Japan. Although one study in June 1945 based on the battle of Okinawa estimated that casualties would be 40,000. Rarely however during these discussions is the potential number of Japanese deaths brought up. A staggering 22 Japanese deaths was estimated for every 1 Allied death, even if this was double the actual number then a ratio of 11:1 is still frightening. As its one quarter and one eighth. The research at the time certainly pointed towards the bombs actually saving lives on both sides.

The morality of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks has been discussed and debated extensively in the past 70 years. Both cities had been left untouched by any Allied bomb to ascertain the damage which a nuclear weapon would do to a normal city. Both cities had little military presence. Both cities were so stretched in manpower that schoolchildren contributed greatly to most of their inner workings such as public transport and factory work. However we must remember the context of 1945. Both sides in the war had taken part in horrific actions against defenceless civilians. Britain had suffered carpet bombing of their main cities and had in return destroyed their German counterparts with ruthless efficiency. The Japanese had conducted the rape of Nanking while the Americans firebombed Tokyo killing 125,000 in twelve hours. The list could go on indefinitely. Ultimately the attack of civilians at this late stage of the war was not measured using the moral compass of today.

And what of the Soviet Union? Cracks had formed and were spreading in their relationship with Britain and America. Without a common enemy there was little binding a totalitarian communist state with democratic capitalist countries. Throughout the war Russia had suffered the deaths of 27 million people, all of it’s industry was destroyed and it was economically crushed. Stalin wanted huge war reparations and Germany to be squeezed to the extent that they would never have the ability to even consider invading Russia for the third time in three generations. To support this he wanted a buffer zone of Eastern European countries, loyal to Moscow, in order to protect their borders. But it was not just what Stalin wanted which worried the Allies, it was what he already had. In August 1945 62 Red Army divisions were stationed in Europe and should they have wished to move west they would have outnumbered their new enemies by eight to one. What America lacked in soldiers they made up for in nuclear power. And thus, the decision to drop nuclear weapons on Japan was as much the last shot in World War Two as it was the first shot in the Cold War.

Again we come back to the question, would you have dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Perhaps the question is too vague as arguments have been put forward for the counterfactual options of sending a video of a detonation of a weapon to the Japanese in advance of demanding a surrender, or of detonating one at sea and stating that a city would be next or even calling it quits after dropping the first bomb on Hiroshima. Or simply not dropping one at all. The debate will not end but it will surely influence a similar decision in the future which will eventually come.

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Why was the Labour Party founded?

In 1888 Fleet Street media fed the news and gossip hungry Londoners with their daily snacks. During the warm summer stories of Mrs Benz driving an automobile designed by her husband a staggering 40 miles alongside updates from India and speculation surrounding Jack the Ripper’s latest victim kept the greasy wheels of gossip turning. It was on this street that the British Labour movement was born as 200 determined young women bounded to the offices of The Link newspaper demanding to meet with the radical journalist Annie Beasant.

They were employees of the Byrant and May match company who after reporting huge dividends of 22% the previous month were paying their employees a measly twenty pence per week and seemingly firing the unskilled workers at will. Beasant investigated the claims of the girls and ensured that their story captured the imagination of the liberal middle classes whose pennies and pounds funded a popular strike. After weeks of a standoff the factory owners acquiesced to the demands of the girls. They had shown that unskilled workers could organise themselves to put pressure on unscrupulous bosses.

Their lesson was learnt and the following year 10,000 London dockers went on strike over their dangerous working conditions and demeaning pay. International trade at the heart of the British empire virtually ceased. Through patient leadership and an organised system of funding and mobilisation the strikers were successful. Over the next five years two million British men joined trade unions and a Labour movement was born. Those who had sown the seeds of success in representing the workers turned their eyes towards the bigger prize of representing the people in the field of politics.

Within ten years their political nous was developing and West Ham soon became the first Labour council in London. A minimum wage was introduced alongside an eight hour working day coupled with two weeks of holiday per annum. Although they lost their power two years later, their ability to reform and organise at a local level was clear.

The next step was to climb up to the daunting heights of national politics and in 1900 at a meeting called by the Trade Union Congress a ‘distinct Labour group in parliament’ was created. This group who would have their own party whips and a clear policy was led by Keir Hardie. A Scottish mine worker who had vigorously worked in various unions for decades, Hardie had become the socialist MP for West Ham in 1892. He refused to don the traditional garb of a member of parliament and instead entered the Palace of Westminster in a tweed suit, a red tie and a deerstalker hat. He advocated women’s rights, free education, the abolition of the House of Lords alongside a staunch anti immigrant stance for Scotland stating that, “God made Scotland for the Scotchmen and I would keep it that way.”


Hardie’s choice of attire symbolised the different approach of the Labour Party

 

The election of 1900 came too soon for the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) but nonetheless MPs were elected in Merthyr Tydfil and Derby. Six years later however the party, benefitting from a secret pact created by Ramsay MacDonald with the Liberals, won 29 seats. In their first meeting the members of parliament decided to ditch their LRC title and adopt the name of the Labour Party instead with Hardie as their leader. Initial successes included their support of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, the Old Age Pension Act and the Health Insurance Bill. They experienced their first taste of government during the war but in 1929 came the success they had been waiting for, a majority government.

The Labour movement of the early 1900s owed it’s popularity to the demand for urban workers in the Industrial Age to the greed of their employers who underestimated the strength of their workforce in cooperating to achieve their aims. Success of political parties depends on their ability to reflect the wants and needs of the populace. This was true in 1900 and is true in 2015.

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The Birth of the NHS

After a roadside picnic on the campaign trail in 1945 Winston Churchill turned to his aides and said, “I’m going to lose this. I have nothing to offer them.” He was right. The same man who took the lonely stance of continuing the war in 1940 when others wanted to negotiate, who led Britain to survival against odds at which any betting man would scoff and whose military were pounding the Germans into submission alongside the soon-to-be foes of Russia and America was right. After the previous war the British wanted to return to the old ways, now they wanted a fresh start. Clement Attlee and the Labour Party swept into office and begun wrapping their gift for a new age – the National Health Service.

While it is tempting to imagine the colourful NHS rolling out across Britain and crushing the old Victorian Poor Law as men in top hats dropped their monocles into their crystal glasses of armagnac amid warnings of a greedy underclass seizing the means of production – that, somewhat surprisingly, is not the case. The NHS, while revolutionary, did build upon existing systems.

In 1911 David Lloyd George introduced the National Insurance Act which provided medical care, unemployment benefits and a pension to working men in return for weekly deductions from their pay. But the medical care provided a limited service from a doctor and hospital treatment only if suffering from tuberculosis. Local authorities also provided medical care for ratepayers and in 1930 the London County Council took control of 140 hospitals. In short, the system did not work well as it was a mix of different solutions to different problems in different regions.

Necessity breeds invention and the impending war again created a need for the fighting fit. But as the world entered the chasm of total war the ‘fighting fit’ no longer meant men at the front line, it meant the entire population who also required medical care from impending Luftwaffe attacks as well as general health. The medical service, as with almost all services and industry, came under state control. Towards the end of the war as Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin planned for the post-war world, the Labour Party planned for the post-war Britain.

Published in December 1942 the Beveridge Report proposed huge reform to tackle the five ‘Great Evils’ of society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. Needless to say it was hugely popular across the board but the realist Churchill in a broadcast entitled ‘After the War’ warned the public not to impose huge spending on the government without any relation to the, “circumstances which might prevail at the time.” After all in that month Britain suffered huge losses to German U-Boats in the Atlantic as the Russian war effort was badly creaking in the east. These discussions were all well and good but the outcome of the war was far from certain and Britain was surviving day to day on heavy American finance.

But by the following year it became clear that Britain would become a welfare state after the war. It is unclear whether this as a reward for the people’s endeavour since 1939 or as a logical step for a healthy populace in an uncertain age. Regardless, the decision had been made and the general principles of the new NHS were as follows:

  1. Services were to be provided free at the point of use
  2. Services were financed by general taxation
  3. Everyone was eligible for care, even those visiting the country

The structure of the new National Health Service was passed by law in November 1946 and was launched on 5th July 1948. It now took control of 480,000 hospital beds, 125,000 nurses and 5,000 consultants. The introduction of the welfare state could not have come at a better time for the people as rationing, a national housing shortage and spiralling tuberculosis deaths rocked the country after six years of war.

Following it’s introduction, the Minister for Health Aneurin Bevan stated, “This is the biggest single experiment in social service that the world has ever seen undertaken.” Nobody would debate that however how long the experiment will continue to last is up for grabs.

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Magna Carta, Magna Carta, Magna Carta…

  

It’s one of those events in history that you know is important but really can’t put your finger on it. You’ve glanced at the articles which proclaim that it was the first agreement protecting the people of England, that it influenced the American Revolution and that our government are trying to dismantle it altogether but yet you get the feeling that those authors know as much as you do. This is where I come in. After reading this you will not only know what it is but also why it pales in significance to a much more important document from the time. And yes there will be references to Robin Hood. 

First off, it means ‘Great Charter’ and was an agreement between king John (The cartoon lion from Disney’s take on Robin Hood) and his barons in 1215. 
But to get the context we are going to leap back to… 1066! When William of Normandy seized power in England he confiscated 96% of the land from the English barons and gave it to his Norman lords. In order to begin a successful dynasty he needed lords, or barons, to collect taxes, maintain order and fight in his wars. So from the outset there was a necessary balance of power between the monarch and the nobility. The monarch granted land in return for duties while the barons performed these duties within reason. 
Fast forward to 1191 when the swashbuckling King Richard the Lionheart went off on crusade to engage in battle with the honourable Saladin the Great. While away the crown of England was given to his younger brother John, an unfortunate soul who missed most if not all of the great family traits possessed by Richard. As his father tactically left him little or no property his nickname was ‘Lackland’. 
Much to the despair of the kingdom Richard died in battle in 1199 and the crown officially passed to John. In his first military campaign in France he suffered terrible losses and surrendered huge tracts of English land. In order to pay for this costly defeat he had to raise taxes for his resentful barons to collect. To make matters worse his new moniker became ‘Soft Sword’ which wasn’t solely to do with his military acumen either… 
His popularity fell further when he became entangled in disputes with the pope and the final straw for the barons came in 1214 when he lost another key battle on French soil. God appeared to be sending clear signals about the English king. 
Enough was enough and a group of rebellious barons attempted to seize London and overthrow John. They were not met with total success so both groups convened at Runnymede to thrash out an agreement. This document became known as Magna Carta and explicitly limited the rights of the monarch. It promised that no free man could be unfairly imprisoned, no unfair taxes could be levied on free men, church rights were to be protected (Clerical positions were often held by the younger brothers of the nobility) and that King John’s actions would be closely supervised by a group of 25 barons. 
This great document unquestionably outlined unprecedented political reform but two things must be noted:
1) John had no intention of abiding by it and as a result the First Barons War began within weeks. Following his death a year later the barons then sided with his son Henry who signed a diluted version of the charter. 
2) The term ‘free men’ which relates to the nobility who made up less than 10% of the population. The barons were quick to preserve the status quo of the serfs who were often not permitted to leave their town of birth or even marry without their lords permission. Make no mistake, Magna Carta protected the interests of an elite group of Anglo-French landowners and not those of lower birth. 
But before you go and spread the word of Magna Carta please allow me to pitch what I believe to be the real protector of the People – The Charter of the Forest from 1217. This document, which lasted for centuries, secured the rights of all people to use the royal forests. Because it was in forests that they found fuel, food, land for animals to graze, timber for building, medicine, clothing and much much more. This charter was unique because it guaranteed the rights of all people not just those who had the foresight to be born into a noble family. After all, in Robin Hood do he and his merry men protect the rights of the nobility to feudal tax breaks or do they fight for the right of the people of Sherwood Forest to use the ecosystem on their doorstep?

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