How Six Documents Changed the Modern World

When you think of the defining moments in history, it’s probably grand occasions that spring to mind. You might think of global wars that raged for years across continents or powerful speeches given by influential leaders and thinkers, proudly delivered to a gathered crowd of thousands but… What about the humble document? How much of a difference could a piece of paper and some ink really make?

For many people when they hear the word ‘document’ they might not think it sounds all that exciting. Images of tax returns and utility bills probably spring to mind. We know that documents are important, after all, it’s pretty important we don’t lose our birth certificate, but we don’t necessarily give them the credit they deserve on the global stage.

Handmade Leather Journals

These illustrations from WD Storage illustrate six documents from modern history that completely changed the world as we know it. Look at the impact teenage Anne Frank’s personal diary has had on the modern world. It is now taught in schools across the world and has been used to educate millions of people across the world on the horrors of World War Two. Martin Luther King Jr’s letter when imprisoned in a Birmingham Jail was an important part of the civil rights movement in America, and they were written on scraps of paper and newspapers margins.

In fact, as you’ll see in many of these documents have even inspired each other. The Magna Carta, created in reaction to aggressive taxes imposed by “Bad King John” inspired the Declaration of Independence. Try to imagine the modern world without The Declaration of Independence which set American independence into motion.

So, next time you’re wondering how important your writing is – have a look over this and remember just how powerful the right words can really be.

Six Documents That Changed the Modern World

The Magna Carta

This document was created in reaction to absurd taxes imposed by King John. England’s land-owning barons kidnapped King John forcing him to negotiate a fair taxation, rights and customs system that became English Law. Over time, it inspired the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Human Rights.

The Gutenberg Bible

Pre-fifteen century every single book was handwritten. This made books inordinately expensive and ensured there weren’t many books available in the first place. Johann Gutenburg and his associates invented the first-ever book-printing process in 1455. In their first run, they printed the bible and were essential in making reading a more accessible activity.

The Treaty of Versailles

Seen by many as a defining moment in modern history, this document was intended to codify the terms of peace post WW1 between The Allies & Germany. The Treaty imposed harsh penalties and reparations Germany was unable to repay, this pushed Germany into a state of poverty and humiliation which set the stage for the rise of the Nazi Party.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail


After being arrested for participating in a protest march without a proper permit, Martin Luther King JR wrote these iconic letters from prison. Written in the margins of newspapers and scraps of paper, this document called for proactive activism and change and is a crucial document in the civil rights movement.

The Diary of Anne Frank

Written between the ages of 13 and 15, Anne Frank’s diary documents her life in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. Not only did this diary describe the fear of life living hidden in an attic, but it also described her life before including her friends, families, and interests. This contrast highlighted the horror of the war and has been used as a symbol of persecution and inspiration since its publication.

The Declaration of Independence


Inspired by the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence was the first step towards America’s independence. Written by a five-man committee, including Benjamin Franklin & Thomas Jefferson, it served as the first official declaration of the American people that they intended to govern their own country.





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