Inventing Human Rights

Inventing Human Rights

A History

Book - 2007
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Baker & Taylor
Traces the history of human rights from the origins of the concept in the eighteenth-century American Declaration of Independence and French Declaration of the Rights of Man, through their momentous eclipse in the nineteenth century, to their culmination as a principle with the United Nations' proclamation of 1948.

Norton Pub
How were human rights invented, and what is their turbulent history?

Human rights is a concept that only came to the forefront during the eighteenth century. When the American Declaration of Independence declared "all men are created equal" and the French proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man during their revolution, they were bringing a new guarantee into the world. But why then? How did such a revelation come to pass? In this extraordinary work of cultural and intellectual history, Professor Lynn Hunt grounds the creation of human rights in the changes that authors brought to literature, the rejection of torture as a means of finding out truth, and the spread of empathy. Hunt traces the amazing rise of rights, their momentous eclipse in the nineteenth century, and their culmination as a principle with the United Nations's proclamation in 1948. She finishes this work for our time with a diagnosis of the state of human rights today.

Book News
In the 1776 US Declaration of Independence and the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, Hunt (modern European history, U. of California-Los Angeles) finds the first clear articulations of human rights. How, she asks, could slave-owner Jefferson and aristocrat Lafayette speak of self-evident, inalienable right of all men. She looks for the precursor ideas, and traces the fate of the concept down to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2007
Edition: 1st ed
Description: 272 p. : ill. ; 22 cm
ISBN: 9780393060959
Branch Call Number: 323.09 Hun


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Jan 25, 2017

The idea of the book wasn't fulfilled: on page 33 the author states that the theory being proposed is that reading physiologically altered people's brains, and these changed brains had different brains than the illiterates' brains and had different thoughts, and among these thoughts were what are conventionally called human rights. But she gives no experimental evidence to support her thesis; it should be relatively easy, for there are many illiterate people around, and many experimental psychologists. Well, the book as it is simply summarizes the ideas of human rights, their sources and the social pressures that emphasized some and for a long time ignored others. The summary is clearly written, and rather brief. Back matter include the USA's Declaration Of Independence, France's Declaration of the Rights Of Man, and the UN's Universal Declaration; numerous and rather lengthy notes (includes web addresses, but no dates when they were accessed), and an index.

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