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3rd October 2014, 1:51pm
Lincoln law professor to talk in USA on Magna Carta and environmental rights
Lincoln law professor’s to talk in USA on Magna Carta and environmental rights The Head of the Lincoln Law School at the University of Lincoln, UK, will deliver a guest lecture in the USA on Magna Carta’s relevance to modern day international law.

Professor Duncan French will give the talk, Magna Carta as Good Governance: Environmental Rights as Citizen Rights, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on Sunday 5th October.

His presentation, organised by The Clark Art Institute in partnership with Lincoln Cathedral, will focus on the relevance of Magna Carta in 21st Century governance, with an emphasis on environmental protection. He will examine the relationship between individuals and the state in 1215 when the document was sealed, and how Magna Carta’s principles still inform modern democracies.

The talk is being held for the Clark Art Institute's exhibition Radical Words: From Magna Carta to The Constitution, forming part of the international celebrations to mark the document’s 800th anniversary next year. The Magna Carta was the first document imposed upon a King of England by a group of his subjects, the feudal barons, in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their rights.

Lincoln Cathedral owns one of only four remaining copies in the world and the Lincoln document is currently at the Clark as part of a tour of the USA. It moves onto the Law Library of Congress in Washington DC in November.

“The Magna Carta forms part of a larger history of how we should govern ourselves, what our society should look like, and how to protect our values and priorities,” said Professor French, a leading academic on international environmental law and the international legal implications of sustainable development.

“So where does the environment fit into this? Increasingly, and especially since the 1970s, matters of environmental protection and nature conservation have not only risen up the consciousness of the general public, but they are more often becoming the subject of political debate and legal regulation.

“In a supposedly post-modern age, and certainly a post-industrial era, ensuring the quality of the environment has become a key feature of many politicians’ democratic mandates.

“But which values should be safeguarded are a matter of context for each generation to decide. No two societies – no two constitutions – are the same, and what they include can differ remarkably. More recent constitutions, such as the post-apartheid South African constitution, have for instance, expressly included a provision on a right to a healthy environment.

“The Magna Carta offers us the chance to witness democracy in its earliest form, and even on a modern society we can continue to draw from that.”

The Clarke Art Institute’s exhibition Radical Words: From Magna Carta to the Constitution  runs until 2nd November 2014. Alongside the Lincoln Magna Carta, itt includes five additional historic documents on loan from Williams College, which include a broadside original of the Declaration of Independence printed on July 4, 1776; a draft of the United States Constitution annotated by George Mason; an 1863 official folio copy of the Emancipation Proclamation; an 1876 original of the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States; and a 1949 copy of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Professor Duncan French’s talk will take place at 3pm on Sunday 5th October at Williams College’s Paresky Center in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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