History of Human Rights

This course asks how we should understand the rise of contemporary human rights -- as a set of norms, an ethical project in the world, and as a set of institutions and laws. Starting far back in Western history, the course begins by asking what the basic moral building blocks of contemporary human rights culture - humanity, rights, compassion, pain and so on - mean and takes up what history has to say about them. In the second half of the course, we turn to the origins of the set of institutions, like governmental and intergovernmental structures and non-governmental movements, that is now so closely associated with human rights promotion. Attention is also given to the rise of international law, first as a tool to regulate war and later to promote more serious limits on how governments and non-state actors behave.

This course is jointly-listed with FAS. It will meet on the FAS campus Monday and Wednesday. There will be a section at HLS for law students on Tuesday