Inventing Human Rights: A History

Front Cover
W. W. Norton & Company, 2007 - History - 272 pages
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.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dhmontgomery - LibraryThing

A limited but informative look at the "rights revolution" in the 18th Century, when early liberals invented the concept of human rights and helped outlaw gruesome punishments and torture. The book was ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dono421846 - LibraryThing

The first half of the book, which is full of intriguing ideas, deep research and on-point examples, deserves at least 4 stars. The second half, however, is much weaker, and while still interesting ... Read full review

Contents

TORRENTS OF EMOTION Reading Novels and Imagining Equality
35
BONE OF THEIR BONE Abolishing Torture
70
THEY HAVE SET A GREAT EXAMPLE Declaring Rights
113
THERE WILL BE NO END OF IT The Consequences of Declaring
146
THE SOFT POWER OF HUMANITY Why Human Rights Failed Only to Succeed in the Long Run
176
Three Declarations 1776 1789 1948
215
Notes
230
Permissions
261
Index
263
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