The 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta

One of the four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, scanned by the British Library.

This post was written by User:Rodw and User:Hchc2009

Everyone knows something about the Magna Carta. Wikipedia’s article about the medieval charter has existed since January 2002, when User:F. Lee Horn began a text on what he described as a “landmark document in English history, as well as in the history of democracy”. Over the years the article grew and matured, via over 5,000 edits, until in November 2014 this article in the Observer highlighted the forthcoming 800th anniversary of the events of 1215, predicting a surge in interest by the public, schools and the media. As a result several discussions started on the article’s talk page about what was needed to make the piece a comprehensive, reliable, high quality reference work for the worldwide users of Wikipedia.

A process of collaborative editing took place over the next few months, with User:Merlinme, User:GrindtXX, User:Hchc2009 and User:Rodw making multiple contributions, although the editing and discussion on the talk page involved many more. Along the way there were extensive discussions about which were the highest quality academic sources to draw upon, getting the balance of the language right on the most sensitive issues, and how to best present the complex details of the medieval legal terms. External help arrived in the form of the British Library, who released some beautiful images of some of the documents, and Hereford Cathedral, who spotted a long standing mistake in part of the article, prompting a fresh flurry of research and discussions. More crowd-sourced assistance emerged through the Guild of Copy Editors‘s User:Jonesey95, who improved much of the prose. The article was nominated as a good article and reviewed by User:Tim riley, finally passing on 30th January this year.

The national and international interest in Magna Carta has been reflected in the readership of the refreshed article, which has received as many as 10,213 hits a day in recent weeks, which equates to over 1 million page views per year. Wikipedia’s 10,000-word article is one of the very few fully referenced, rigorous, general purpose overviews of the charter, complementing specialist academic sites such as the Magna Carta Project and those of museums and cathedrals. With a number of new specialist studies being published in 2015, the article will inevitably require updating during the coming year to keep abreast of the academic literature, and may potentially reach featured article status – but that is one of the wonders of the wiki: anyone can help by editing it!