(Re)imagining Magna Carta: Myth, Metaphor and the Rhetoric of Britishness

Judi Atkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta came at a time of growing uncertainty about what it means to be British. Contemporary politicians have responded by articulating visions of Britishness, through which they seek to unite citizens behind a common identity. Taking as its focus the myth of Magna Carta, this article examines the rhetoric of Britishness of Gordon Brown and David Cameron. It shows that although both link Magna Carta to the myth of British exceptionalism, Cameron alone defines Britishness against an external ‘Other’. The article also demonstrates that Magna Carta acts as a ‘founding myth’, and that its emergence as such is indicative of a change in Britain's ‘rhetorical culture’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-620
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Issue number3
Early online date30 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Parliamentary Affairs following peer review. The version of record Judi Atkins; (Re)imagining Magna Carta: Myth, Metaphor and the Rhetoric of Britishness, Parliamentary Affairs, Volume 69, Issue 3, 1 July 2016, Pages 603–620, is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gsv057


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