Document granting certain specified rights, powers, privileges, or functions from the sovereign power of a state to a person, corporation, city, or other unit of local organization. In Magna Carta (1215), King John granted certain liberties to the English people. Elsewhere in medieval Europe, monarchs issued charters to towns, guilds, universities, and other institutions, granting the institution certain privileges and sometimes specifying how they should conduct their internal affairs. Later, charters were granted to overseas trading companies (e.g., the British East India Co.), granting them monopolies in certain areas. Britain's colonies in North America were established by charter. Modern charters may be corporate or municipal. A corporate charter, issued by a governmental body, grants individuals the power to form a corporation, or limited-liability company. A municipal charter is a law that creates a new political subdivision and allows the people within it to organize themselves into a municipal corporation, in effect delegating to the people the powers of local self-government.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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