Magna Carta

We have chosen to research and present the Magna Carta for our final project in Digital Humanities.  Our website, “A Closer Look into the Magna Carta,” supplies the reader with information and a timeline concerning the history of the text and its significance throughout the years on England, the United States, and other parts of the world.  We have examined the differences between modern day versions, old English versions, and the original Latin version.  Hopefully, we will have a language tab on the home page that lets our readers pick the dialect most familiar to them, making the site accessible to web users all over the world.  Our website displays a concordance of each document, images and facsimiles.  In addition, our website offers a discussion board, contact information, our own transcription, and an analysis of the different versions of the document.  All of this and more can be discovered through “A Closer Look into the Magna Carta.”

            We chose this topic to study because we are interested in both transcribing and our readers’ opinions about how the actual text has changed over the years.  Ali is a history major and Julia has been to England, where she got to visit the original Magna Carta.  We are fascinated and excited to see what we can do with this topic.  It is remarkable that only three of the original clauses are still in effect today.  We believe there is importance in keeping people interested in texts like this since it shaped England’s law and the United States Bill of Rights.  Teenagers and adults alike should be informed about the Magna Carta and its history.  Also, our website provides substantial research for scholars if they are informed and interested in transcribing.  We are qualified to present this project because we have knowledge of transcription, digital humanities, and the background of the Magna Carta.  Julia has the technical skills involved with making a website.  Our website will be copyright protected because we are presenting the different versions of the Magna Carta that are already copyrighted, as well as other information provided by a number of experts.

            We at the “A Closer Look into the Magna Carta” website have a number of goals to achieve to provide the best experience for our users. Our number one goal is to provide the original and edited copies of the document so our readers can use this website as a tool.  We want to have four different versions of the text: the original Latin, Henry III’s old English edition, the modern day English, and a piece of the text transcribed by us.  After having looked at these, the reader will be able to compare and contrast the different versions of the facsimiles and transcribed texts.  We want to educate our readers about the Magna Carta and its relevance in history as well as the modern world.  We encourage our readers to interact with our website.  Personally, we want to learn more about the document and the time period surrounding it.  We want people to collaborate ideas about our topic and digital humanities on our discussion wall.  Finally, we want more people introduced to and involved with the study of digital humanities.  We believe by enlarging the world of DH, we can learn extra information about it and how to expand the field.

            Ideally, if we had the kind of funding that would be necessary to purchase the proper tools we would apply various different programs into designing our project.  Right now, the basic website has been created with the free web design tools from Weebly.  These have been helpful to us because we are beginners with website design and found it very easy to use.  However, with financing and the help of experts, we could utilize more advanced programs to provide a more professional looking website for our visitors.

            Another source of technology we would like to use would be XML encoding.  This would be for displaying the transcribed copies of the Magna Carta to visitors.  The source code would be available to anyone visiting the site in order to make it more of an informative and collaborative effort.  We would also accept feedback on the XML encoding to improve our site.   Likewise, there would be easy to use XML tools next to the desired transcription, just like on the Project Gutenberg site, as well as an interactive text box.  These features would encourage users to transcribe the document themselves right there on the website, which facilitates learning about not only the Magna Carta, but also about XML and TEI.  We would also like to provide PDF versions of the facsimiles/transcriptions to download straight to the computer so our visitors can have easier access to the documents.  We would use these kinds of technology to provide a number of options to those interested in Magna Carta. 

            One last innovation we would implement would be the embedding of videos and pictures on our site.  These could be placed on our About page along with the information there to learn more about the document.  Preferably, this media could draw in the interest of people who are browsing for information about the document and they could come upon our website.  An example of certain kinds of video would be one on the front page as a welcome, a tutorial, or a short piece introducing the history.  We would also use more pictures to illustrate our points, helping the reader visualize the story, therefore aiding in the learning process.  We could include all of these innovative aspects to our website with the right funding.  Hopefully, it would draw more people to visit and learn from the website.

            “A Closer Look into the Magna Carta” will be designed to make searching and learning as easy as possible.  There will be an area dedicated to showing people how to use and navigate the website under the Tutorial tab.  The layout is similar to old parchment, inciting images of the time period, as well as plenty of pictures relating to the subject matter.  This makes the site aesthetically pleasing to our readers.  We have tabs clearly stating the content within each, which are always available at the top of the page.  We do not wish to skim the surface of what the Magna Carta has to offer. 

            In our “History” tab, the reader can learn all about what led up to and is contained in the Magna Carta.  It explains how the Magna Carta is a charter, or a grant of authority and rights; in this case, it is for the people of England.  King John came to rule in England succeeding his brother, Richard the Lionheart.  Soon into his rule, he began abusing his power by throwing people in jail without justification and ignoring the nobles.  King John got involved in many expensive wars with France, though he lacked the military expertise of his brother. In addition, he angered the barons by increasing taxes because they were losing money, territory and troops in the war.  John became tyrannical and implementing repressive policies.  

            Not only did he clash with the nobles, he quarreled with Pope Innocent III.  He disrespected the Pope’s power to select the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Pope suspended all religious services in England and placed them under an interdict, essentially condemning the people to Hell.  After seizing church revenues in retaliation, John was excommunicated from the church.  He lost a lot of support because a majority of his subjects were faithful to the Pope.  In the end, he gave up and basically handed over England over to the Pope.  This was the last straw for the barons.  They prevented absolute power by the king and future dictatorships by forcing him to sign the Magna Carta.

            This is a major milestone in English history because it was the first limitation of the monarchy, which was completely unprecedented.  The royal family was said to have “divine right”, meaning they had God’s right to rule.  Therefore, whoever is in power has the ultimate authority and control of his people.  The fact that Englishmen were questioning and undermining the king would have meant automatic treason and a resulting death 100 years previous because they doubted not only the monarchy, but the rule of God.  By taking that risk and challenging the family, the authors of the Magna Carta were making history.

        The Magna Carta was significant because it established the rights of the nobles, stating no man was above the law, including the king.  The Magna Carta implemented equality, justice, and liberties for all free men.  Because of John’s ruthless and authoritarian ruling, the manuscript prevented future dictators from reigning autonomously in England.  This made revolution less likely because the people were not suppressed.  It set a precedent for the protection of rights in a ruled country and became a part of the modern British Constitution.  The Magna Carta greatly affected England’s legal system which served as an example for others.  Many of its principles are echoed in the Constitution of the United States, further strengthening it’s impact.

            Although it is irrelevant legally because only three clauses of the original 63 remain, the principles of the manuscript still live on.  People began to consider that they could have a say in how they are governed, leading to the American colonies wanting representation in Parliament.  It served as a wakeup call for Europe because it meant that, for the first time in a long time, democratic rights were back again.  The Magna Carta’s ideals started the democratic movement for the world, although they did not set into effect until the Enlightenment.  The founding fathers of the United States used the Magna Carta to draft the Declaration of Independence.  This led to the Revolutionary War and the establishment of America’s own identity as a separate country.

            For our website, we have provided a timeline of the Magna Carta and another of the events surrounding the signing worldwide.  This will help our readers enhance their knowledge about the events happening in 1215 that may have led up to the document and the effects on England afterwards.  We have provided links to media with historical significance to the Magna Carta like Shakespeare’s play: The Life and Death of King John.  Also, there is the movie, The Lion in Winter, and many books including The Illustrated British Monarchy Histories, and King John (English Monarchs).

            A discussion board is available through which students, educators and scholars can converse about what they do and do not see here on “A Closer Look into the Magna Carta” and how to improve it.  We encourage our readers to share their thoughts because they will receive feedback from others through comments and like/dislike buttons.  This will stimulate educational discussion. The site will be frequently monitored in order to regulate any vulgar comments posted on the site.  If any questions are not answered through the discussion board, links and contact information to other sources are accessible in order to enhance one’s understanding of the material.  We are looking to collaborate with professionals to present the best experience we can through our website. 

           Our website has presented scanned and transcribed copies of the document for our readers to peruse under the Document tab.  We have encoded not only the original document, but its revisions throughout the years from Latin to modern day English.  Our readers should be able to do a side by side text analysis of all the different versions.  We want to work with them to examine the subtle differences in language and use of wording throughout the texts.  There will be a page including all the various versions of the text in XML so that our readers may analyze what makes each text unique.

            We have transcribed part of the text ourselves and want others to try and practice transcribing too.  There is a tab that welcomes our users to try and transcribe a passage of the original manuscript and compare it to ours.  This will spread the knowledge of transcribing so that more documents can be transformed from handwritten manuscripts to forms of digital media.  By being in the digital form, the information has more availability.  Also, digital natives are more likely to want to learn from it because they are used to online media, having grown up with it.  Hopefully, we can introduce those interested in the Magna Carta to transcribing and they will be inspired to get involved with more aspects of digital humanities.  In this way, the digital humanities will get more publicity and widespread acknowledgement. 

            One of our more useful tools is the concordances of the many different versions of the Magna Carta.  By examining this, researchers will be able to see how dynamic the document has been over the years.  The changes made throughout each edition will be very obvious when using concordances in research.  Scholars can analyze the differences in word usage and meaning behind the text in each publication.

            We plan on incorporating an audio player that will read off the information on each page; this will make the website a little more fun and interactive.  Those with different learning styles or those with vision impairments can comprehend all the information better.  We want to make different languages available so students and scholars across the world can learn from our website.  Students can listen to and learn from our website while doing other things and multitasking.  We are aiming this website to appeal to students by supplying them with new digital technologies. We do not want “A Closer Look into the Magna Carta” to be outdated.

            Our website is a good representation of digital humanities because it is all about collaboration, which is vital to the field of study.  The purpose of this website is to inform and gain feedback.  There is a discussion board providing the chance for users to interact with one another and converse about the Magna Carta.  We want to enlighten people about our past because of the familiar saying of staying informed so that “history doesn’t repeat itself.” 

            When we began the Magna Carta project, our desire was to have it as close as possible to being a true representation of digital humanities.  However, very quickly into our venture, we ran into a roadblock; that is, if there is no real definition to study, how are we supposed to create a website that encapsulates as much as it can about digital humanities into it?  Thus, we decided to brainstorm the most important aspects of what makes something “DH” and see how this could aid us in building a website dedicated to the Magna Carta.  Luckily, when asked to explain the advantages of digital humanities at the beginning of the year, Ali said, “All of the historical treasures in the world can be shared with everyone and people can be better educated, thanks to having many websites and sources so available.”  This statement sums up exactly what we desire to accomplish with this project, as well as how we hope to make it a completely DH website.

            Using that definition, we decided the three most important aspects we would concentrate on would be education, interactivity, and collaboration.  Everything we hope to have on the website would fit into one or more of these categories.  For example, our history and timeline portions are designed specifically to provide as much detailed information as possible for our readers. 

            We insist on our users to interact with the website as much as possible.  We will further provide gateways for users to continue their learning outside of our website.  At the most simplistic level, we would set up links to other forms of media that have the same goals and purpose as our website.  In this way, we combine collaboration and education into one portion.  We bring interactivity and collaboration to our site through the discussion board we hope to establish on our website.  Users will be able interact with others who share the same interests as them, as well as ask questions and gain answers quickly from commenting.  Additionally, we hope to include a tutorial, which will explain how to use our site correctly and more efficiently.  Our site embodies the aspects of digital humanities through the integration of these tools we have established for the best possible learning experience about the Magna Carta.  “A Closer Look into the Magna Carta” is also a digitally innovate site that utilizes learning tools and collaboration to make a unique experience for our users.

            With the help of this grant and other contributions we would like to make our website as useful and informational as possible.  We want to provide our readers with something they have never seen before, a unique experience.  We would like to hire four professionals that specialize in one or more of the following: Latin translation, old English, transcribing and XML, and an English historian.  With the assistance from these experts we hope that “A Closer Look into the Magna Carta” can excel and accomplish all of our goals.  This is just the beginning; we could do so much more with time and resources. 

            This project has really helped us to learn the maximum amount we could from this class.  The different aspects we are using are based upon our knowledge taken from the discussions and homework assigned in Digital Humanities.  It feels unreal to have created something that can compare with other sources of digital humanities.  This really is a comprehensive project for us and we would love to see how it would have progressed after a couple of years.

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