Six Documents That Changed The World

When you hear the word ‘document’ you might not get all that excited. Maybe you think about filing paperwork, taxes or important documents you’re scared to lose like your birth certificate. But really… Documents can change the world. 

That’s right. With just ink and a few, or many pages, the entire world can be impacted. 

You might think we’re biased because document storage is what we do so let us show you! In this blog, we’ve listed six of the world’s most famous documents so we can show you just how a document can make the world a different place. After all, try to imagine a modern world without The Declaration of Independence? Or what would have happened without The Magna Carta?

The Magna Carta

Written in 1215, England

An illustration of King John of England standing sitting at a desk where he is being forced to sign the Magna Carta

The Magna Carta was created in reaction to the crippling taxes imposed by “Bad” King John. King John was also notably portrayed by a cartoon lion in Disney’s 1973 Robin Hood. England’s land-owning barons decided that enough was enough, kidnapping King John. They then forced him to negotiate a fairer system of taxation, rights and customs which eventually become English law. 

The Magna Carta did take a little fine-tuning… and a civil war… before it ultimately inspired the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Human Rights. Even now is seen as a powerful symbol of liberty around the world. 

The Gutenberg Bible

Written in 1455, Germany

An illustration of Johannes Gutenberg and an associate standing over the first printing press. They are printing the Gutenberg bible.

Before the mid-fifteenth century, every single copy of every single book was handwritten. That meant any mistake on a page required scribes to rewrite the entire page – imagine making a typo on the final sentence! Not only was this an incredibly time-consuming process, that led to a lot of hand cramps, it was also very expensive.

Because of how expensive and time-consuming the bookmaking process was, books were relatively rare. Johann Gutenberg changed all of this in 1455 when he and his associates invented the first-ever book printing process. They chose the bible as their first printing project. 

Because the printing press made book copying much quicker, they could make much larger volumes of books and sell them at a cheaper price making books more affordable than ever. Next time you’re in your favourite book shop, say a little thanks to Gutenburg and associates for making it possible.

The Treaty of Versailles

Written in 1919, France

An illustration of a soldier standing on a battlefield. He is signing the Treaty of Versailles and looks apprehensive.

The Treaty of Versailles is seen by many historians as a defining moment in modern history, and warfare. The document was originally intended to codify the terms of peace between the Allies and Germany at the end of WW1.

The treaty held Germany entirely responsible for WW1 and imposed harsh penalties. These penalties included loss of territory, mandatory demilitarisations and reparations that were impossible to make. Not only did these terms humiliate Germany on the global stage but they also led to tensions and mass poverty across Germany. Following the economic disaster of the 1920s in Germany, there was the rise of the Nazi Party which eventually led to WW2.

Martin Luther King’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail

Written in 1963, USA

An illustration of Martin Luther King Jr writing. The table is busy with many scraps of paper.

This iconic letter was written by Martin Luther King Jr who had been imprisoned for participating in a protest march without a proper permit. Dr King’s open letter was drafted in the margin of newspapers provided by the prison and any scraps of paper he was able to find. 

In his open letter, Dr King argued for the need for proactive steps if any form of social change was going to be achieved. It was seen, by its readers, as a call to action and a cry for activism and change. It is now seen as a crucial document in the history of America’s civil rights movement, although Dr King’s words have inspired across the world. 

The diary of Anne Frank

Written between 1942-44, The Netherlands

An illustration of Anne Frank hidden in an attic, she is writing her diary by candlelight.

Perhaps the most well-known diary in history. Anne Frank’s diary was written over two years while Anne and her family hid during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands. The diary serves as an insight into the mind of a teenage Jewish girl during the horrors of World War 2. 

Writing her diary between the ages of 13 and 15, Anne doesn’t only write about the terror of the war. She also documents her feelings, thoughts and memories of life before the Nazi occupation. This contrast only highlights the trauma experienced by Jewish, and other persecuted communities, during World War 2 across Europe. 

The diary was published post-humously by Anne’s father, Otto Frank, who is the only known member of the Frank family to survive the Holocaust. He hoped that sharing his daughter’s intimate thoughts and experiences would serve as a symbol of warning and hope to all of those who read it. The diary is now seen globally as a symbol of persecution and inspiration for political and social change. It is widely taught in schools and read now by children the same age as Anne was when she wrote it, hidden in an attic. 

The Declaration of Independence

Written in 1776, USA

An image of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin standing inside a room. They are waiting British & American soldiers fighting, a draft of the Declaration of Independence sits on a table.

The Declaration of Independence is possibly one of the most famous documents across the world. Not just because of Nicolas Cage’s action masterpiece National Treasure, either. The Declaration of Independence was written by a five-man committee, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

It served as the first formal expression by the American people that they intended to govern their own country. After the decision by King George 3rd to increase the British military presence in the states in an attempt to crush rebel uprisings, the support for American independence grew rapidly. 

Drafts of the Independence of Declaration were written and submitted to Congress. It passed, after a few slight rewrites, and was officially adopted on the fourth of July. Nowadays, the fourth of July in America is now known as “independence day”. 

The document is seen by many as a key moment in democracy. Since its inception, it has given many countries encouragement to move towards their own independence.

As you can see, many of these documents have been rewritten and edited over time. Some are single pages, while others are books. Still, they have all made incredible changes. We’re thankful to be able to look back on them and appreciate how they have impacted our modern world.


Do you have your own documents that you want to make sure stay protected? We offer document storage and archive storage services from companies in Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Lincoln, Mansfield and the surrounding areas. 

You can find out about our secure document storage solutions and record management system or get in touch with a friendly member of the team.

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