• Magna Carta

  • The Birth of Liberty
  • By: Dan Jones
  • Narrated by: Dan Jones
  • Length: 7 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (551 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Plantagenets, a lively, action-packed history of how the Magna Carta came to be - by the author of Powers and Thrones.

The Magna Carta is revered around the world as the founding document of Western liberty. Its principles - even its language - can be found in our Bill of Rights and in the Constitution. But what was this strange document and how did it gain such legendary status?

Dan Jones takes us back to the turbulent year of 1215, when, beset by foreign crises and cornered by a growing domestic rebellion, King John reluctantly agreed to fix his seal to a document that would change the course of history. At the time of its creation the Magna Carta was just a peace treaty drafted by a group of rebel barons who were tired of the king's high taxes, arbitrary justice, and endless foreign wars. The fragile peace it established would last only two months, but its principles have reverberated over the centuries. 

Jones's riveting narrative follows the story of the Magna Carta's creation, its failure, and the war that subsequently engulfed England, and charts the high points in its unexpected afterlife. Reissued by King John's successors it protected the Church, banned unlawful imprisonment, and set limits to the exercise of royal power. It established the principle that taxation must be tied to representation and paved the way for the creation of Parliament.

In 1776 American patriots, inspired by that long-ago defiance, dared to pick up arms against another English king and to demand even more far-reaching rights. We think of the Declaration of Independence as our founding document but those who drafted it had their eye on the Magna Carta.

©2015 Dan Jones (P)2015 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Lively and excellent." (The New York Times

"By putting the Magna Carta in its proper historical context, the brilliant young historian Dan Jones triumphantly answers the questions he poses in his Introduction, about how it came to be granted, what it meant at the time, and what it should mean to us today." (Andrew Roberts, New York Times best-selling author of Napoleon

"Dan Jones has an enviable gift for telling a dramatic story while at the same time inviting us to consider serious topics like liberty and the seeds of representative government." (Antonia Frasier) 

What listeners say about Magna Carta

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Amazing work

Be patient with this one, he goes off in detail about random things but in the end he bring it all together in an amazing way. Worth every second!

6 people found this helpful

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best book I have read in years. informational yet

this chronological explanation kept me on the edge of my seat. I was surprised I even liked it as I thought it would be a text book.

5 people found this helpful

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  • 12-09-15

Complicated period of history made accessible

Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty by historian Dan Jones is excellent. As with his previous books, The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors and The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England , Mr. Jones makes a very complicated period of history accessible.

The Magna Carta is often referred to as the starting point for our own Constitution. Ironically it was never intended as a tool to help the common man. It was intended to benefit the nobility by controlling a despotic king. Mr. Jones does a wonderful job of setting up the circumstances that required the creation of the Magna Carta. He also explains that it was not just one document and done. It was reissued with changes over the course of many years. It is a fascinating timeline to follow how a barons’s rebellion is credited in the creation of some many documents which brought freedom to nation’s citizens.

Honestly I enjoyed John Curless’s narration of War of the Roses better than Mr. Jones’s narration of Magna Carta. I did enjoy Mr. Jone’s narration better than Clive Chafer’s narration of The Plantagenets. Mr. Jones has a pleasant voice. He certainly knows the text having written it. He provides emphasis where it is needed. It just comes down to personal choice in narrators. I would highly recommend Magna Carta. It is wonderful and not dry.

This book was provided free from Audiobook Addicts on Facebook as a prize for a contest.

11 people found this helpful

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Excellent book, excellent narration

Dan Jones is a great writer and great narrator. I really enjoyed this non-fiction work. I learned so much and the pace and delivery were excellent.

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Masterfully Written and Narrated

This engaging and compendious history of Magna Cart is indispensable to the understanding of, inter alia, the American Declaration of Independence, the need for a written and fixed constitution, the supremacy of law, and why a wall of separation between church and state must exist. It should be both read and listen to.

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Great book, kinda hard to follow at times

Loved the book, loved the topic, loved the author/reader. Only thing is that it can be a bit hard to follow at times (especially with the names of all of the barons and lords). I would definitely recommend it to someone who has a deep interest in European history or the history of democratic government. For those of you who do not have any previous knowledge of the topic, some parts of this book might go over your heads.

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Dan Jones does it again!

Dan Jones is today's BEST living historian. Not only do his books bring history alive, he's a wonderful narrator. If you've seen his documentaries on British television, you already know how interesting he is. Unfortunately, his two best books, The Plantagenets and The Hollow Crown (The War of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors), are not available in audio format, so indulge yourself in this one and only Dan Jones book on audio--you'll just have to read his other books, which are equally entertaining and informative, but you won't have his melodious voice in your ears... more's the pity.

A great listen from a great narrator.

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Interesting History

This was interesting history. I actually saw one of the original copies of the Magna Carta when I was visiting a cathedral in England. I really didn’t understand it’s history before I listened to this audiobook.

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Very good listen

Well thought out and factual but in no way a dry read. The narrator had very good pacing and enough tonal inflection to keep one glued to the story. The author used enough wit and humor to keep ones interest through an otherwise staggering history of dates and events that a school student would have been bored to tears listing to. Overall well worth the listen.

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Loved it

Another fascinating book by Dan Jones which brings medieval history to life. Now I have to find out more about Robin Hood, who apparently did not live in King John’s time.