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The Making of Britain: The Middle Ages by Lesley M. Smith (eds.)

By Lesley M. Smith (eds.)

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Like most election manifestos it promptly became a dead letter once he was sitting firmly on the throne and not until John's reign did its ghost rise up to haunt a later king. By contrast the genesis of Magna Carta made it much more memorable. It had been forced out by rebellion. It was given maximum publicity. And right from the start it was intended to last; it was a charter granted 'to all the free men of the realm and their heirs for ever'. Thus, despite the existence of these earlier charters, the fact remains that never before had there been anything quite like Magna Carta.

Southern, The Making of the Middle Ages (London, 1953). CHAPTER TWO 'iithenlew cauropeans Anne Duggan About the year 1100 a young cleric, Adelard of Bath, left England on a lifetime of study and travel. His goal was the treasury of classical Greek learning, all but lost with the fall of the western Roman Empire in the mid-fifth century, which Islamic scholars working in Bukhara and Cordoba in the ninth and tenth centuries had translated into Arabic. His voyage of discovery took him to Asia Minor, Italy, Sicily and Christian Spain - wherever there was the chance of acquiring new texts or meeting the scholars who were either skilled in Arabic and Greek, the languages which could unlock the desired riches, or who were proficient in the new learning.

A native of Canterbury, he was successively treasurer of York, bishop of Poitiers, and archbishop of Lyon, before retiring to the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux. 8 But most English scholars returned home to influential positions in church and state. From the 1130s onwards, they formed a distinct professional elite, conscious of their status, and careful to record their educational achievement by retaining the title of magister - master which they had acquired in the schools. We can trace the progressive entry of the magistri irito the administration of bishopric and kingdom in the witness lists of contemporary charters.

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