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IPFS News Link • History

The Charter of the Forest: The Companion Document to the Magna Carta, 800 Years Later

• U C Press

2017 marks the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, the scarcely-known companion to the Magna Carta, issued on November 6, 1217. Unlike the Magna Carta, which dealt with the rights of barons, the Charter of the Forest addressed the rights of the common man. It restricted the amount of land that the king could claim for private use and restored the right of common access to natural resources. With current day controversies over the use of public lands, the Charter of the Forest endures not only in its historical significance but in its relevance to environmental law and longstanding restraints against tyranny.

In The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All, author Peter Linebaugh draws on primary sources to construct a wholly original history of the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest. In his introduction, he describes the aim of the charters, and the book:

Historians have always known the Charter of the Forest existed but many of its terms—for example estovers, or subsistence wood products—seem strange and archaic, and have prevented the general public from recognizing its existence and understanding its importance.