Magna Carta, radicalism & the suffrage

As a symbol of freedom, rights and liberties, Magna Carta heavily influenced 18th and 19th-century radicalism & suffragism in England. 

By the 18th century Magna Carta had taken on a legendary status as a symbol of rights and freedoms. What had started as an argument between a tyrannical king and his barons had become an emblem of liberty for those fighting parliament. In the 18th and 19th centuries, those fighting for political reforms began to interpret and invoke Magna Carta for their own needs and the charter became identified with radicalism. Magna Carta can help us to better understand British radicalism of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as hinting at the changing nature of the power of Parliament. 

Historical sources

An Authentic History of the Cato-Street Conspiracy (1820)

George Cruikshank's satirical drawing 'Liberty suspended!' (1817)

The People’s Charter (estimated 1838)

Poster for public meeting for the Peoples Charter (1839)

Political caricature of Queen Caroline 'Britain's Best Hope, England's Sheet Anchor' (1820)

Article on Magna Carta and women from journal The Englishwoman (1915)

Cartoon captioned 'Magna Carta' in publication Votes for Women (1911)

Magna Carta, 1215

Recommended reading (short articles):

Radicalism and Suffrage by Alex Lock

The clauses of Magna Carta by Nicholas Vincent

British Library articles on the Magna Carta