Magna Carta in New Zealand: History, Politics and Law in Aotearoa

AuthorRichard Boast
PositionQC, Professor, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington
Book Review 243
R  S W  C J () M
C  N Z: H, P  L  A
(P M/S N, S, ).
R  RP B*
is substantial book, edited by Stephen Winter of the University of
Auckland and by Chris Jones of Canterbury University, is a collection of
essays that together deal with every aspect of the legal, political and historical
signicance of Magna Carta in Aotearoa New Zealand. e editors and the
contributors alike aliate to a range of elds. Stephen Winter is a specialist
in political theory and Chris Jones is a Medievalist who is interested in late-
Medieval political thought and in the legacy of Medieval political ideas in
modern political formations such as New Zealand. e contributors also
come from a wide range of scholarly disciplines, including Medieval history
(Lindsay Breach, Lindsay Diggelmann, Anna Milne-Tavendale); politics and
the history of European political thought (Geo Kemp and Andrew Sharp);
law (David V Williams and Jeremy Finn); and Māori political, cultural and
intellectual history (Te Maire Tau, Madi Williams, Laura Kamau). Not only
do the essays come from a wide range of disciplines, the authors themselves
all aliate to a range of disciplinary elds (Andrew Sharp, for instance, being
prominent in the elds of political studies and history, Te Maire Tau aliating
to Māori studies and to intellectual history generally, and Jeremy Finn and
David Williams being prominent in the elds of law and history). e result
is a collection of extraordinary richness and resonance, with many disciplines
and subdisciplines in play. Yet all the contributors have been able to focus their
attention on the central issue, that of Magna Carta itself and its contemporary
relevance (or, perhaps, the lack thereof).
Such a work as this, given the book’s bicultural positioning in both
European and Māori intellectual history, could only have been assembled in
Aotearoa-New Zealand. It is an exciting indication of the new traditions of
political thought and intellectual history now beginning to ourish in our
country. Where might this all lead?
As the editors put it, (at 3), the book “is not a book about concessions
granted by an English king to his disgruntled barons” in the year 1215; rather,
“it is a book about the role Magna Carta has played in Aotearoa New Zealand”.
It can be said that the book is about New Zealand public law, provided that
this is understood in the widest possible sense, and understood biculturally.
* QC, Professor, Facult y of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.

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