Crucial Documents in World History



History 1301 CRN 24849


Crucial Documents in World History

The Magna Carter

King John of England signed the Magna Carter in 1215 under duress and is regarded as the first constitution in the history of Europe (, 2015). It is not clear who wrote the actual wording, but the document is a result of back and forth negotiations between the King and his nobles. The reign of King John started with problems after his father King Henry II died without identifying the heir causing a dispute for the throne between him and his nephew Geoffrey that culminated in a war that included King Philip II of France who fought alongside Geoffrey. King John was, however, able to clinch power and mistreated prisoners of the war, including murdering Geoffrey. These acts did not go well with his supporters. In 1206, John went into war with France for a second time, which made him lose several territories.

His prestige was damaged even further by his dispute with Pope Innocent III in 1208 that led to his ex-communication. In 1213, he lost a war with France and was unable to rebuild his reputation or reclaim the resources he spent. The archbishop of Canterbury, appointed by the pope, successfully channeled baronial unrests that put immense pressure on King John. A civil war broke out in 1215 that chased King John from London. Forced into a corner, the King yielded and signed a document that initially referred to as Articles of the Barons and later became the Magna Carter. The Magna Carter was an important document and is regarded as the first constitution in Europe.

Mayflower Compact

English immigrants created a set of rules to govern themselves when they arrived in Mayflower. The Mayflower compact was necessitated by the group’s understanding that a society could not survive and prevail without laws. The pilgrims landing in America as colonizers wanted to make sure they quelled a rebellion before it erupted and so they drafted laws that defined dissent in the ranks. The Mayflower Compact was signed in 1620 by 41 people all men including two representatives of servants (Witchcraft). Pastor William Brewster is credited for writing this document, although this knowledge is not certain (Editors, The significance of this document is that it was the first set of laws to establish self-rule in the New World. It was an initial and successful attempt at democracy and set the foundation for colonies to seek independence from the British and birthing the nation that would become the United States of America.

The Trial of Anne Hutchinson

Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay colony protected their doctrine with unmatched fury. There was no room to express freethinking or ignore God’s work. Anne Hutchinson had a vast understanding of the Bible, which she used to confront ministers of Massachusetts for going out of the constraints of the doctrine by enforcing proper behavior (Michals). Challenging this ideology in this manner was very dangerous and a recipe for anarchy. She gathered a few people in her summons, and her growing leadership as a woman presented even more danger to the authority.

The clergy arrested, tried, and banished her from the colony in 1637. The significance of her life and trial is what American’s take for granted today-religious liberty. The Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony so that they could practice their religion in a society that women were expected to play a submissive role.

Works Cited Featured Document: The Magna Carta. 2015 [online] Available at:, “Mayflower Compact.” HISTORY. Last modified October 29, 2009.

Michals, Debra.  “Anne Hutchinson.”  National Women’s History Museum.  2015. 

Whitcraft, Melissa, The Mayflower Compact. New York: Children’s Press, 2003.