Scholars generally agree that the Magna Carta of 1215 was a watershed in Western (and, more specifically, English) legal and political history and thought. Beyond this simple statement, however, there is little consensus concerning the nature and significance of the Magna Carta's achievement. One central unresolved issue centers on whether the charter represents a principled defense of human liberty or instead reflects a pragmatic statement of baronial liberties. The dispute over this question is nontrivial and reflects much more than a matter of language. If one subscribes to the former belief, which received its classic articulation in the seventeenth century (Turner 2003, 145–82) and retains powerful resonance today (Linebaugh 2008), then the Magna Carta deserves to be accorded a foundational role in the intellectual and political history of the liberal-democratic constitutional tradition, in which the rule of law is deemed the basis for the protection of individual freedom. If, however, one adopts the viewpoint of “the modern historian” that the charter “is a statement of [specific] liberties rather than an assertion of [general] liberty,” then the document should be read narrowly as an interesting artifact stipulating elite “privileges” that were “devised mainly in the interests of the aristocracy” (Holt 1965, 4). In other words, either the Magna Carta reflects deeper philosophical doctrines and commitments that enjoy purchase beyond their specific time and place, or it represents an expression of the immediate demands and grievances of a specific class displeased with the conduct of King John's government.