Writing the History of Human Rights

History 280U.003

Spring 2012
2303 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
M 12-2pm

In this course, we will survey the new historiography of human rights and identify some of its main problems, in particular its relations to other fields of historical inquiry (the histories of empire, citizenship, humanitarianism, genocide, international law, decolonization, and the end of the Cold War, among others). What kind of historical narratives are emerging if familiar histories are retold in the new idiom of human rights? The course is comparative in scope and chronologically broad, ranging from early modern natural rights theories to the present concern with humanitarian interventions. Readings include: Christopher Brown, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism. Roland Burke, Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights. Dan Edelstein, The Terror of Natural Rights. Didier Fassin, Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present. Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann (ed.), Human Rights in the Twentieth Century. Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights. Akira Iriye et al. (eds.), The Human Rights Revolution. Martti Koskenniemi, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law. Paul Lauren, The Evolution of International Human Rights. Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations. Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History. Jeffrey Wasserstrom et. al. (eds.), Human Rights and Revolutions [2nd., revised edition].