Dr. Susan Longfield Karr

Although Human Rights issues continue to be debated and contested, the longer history and intellectual tradition of Human Rights is often unexamined and even forgotten.

Our contemporary understanding of the content and force of rights globally through international law as well as humanitarian actions has grown out of earlier roots in the Natural Law and Natural Rights traditions in the West.

In this course, we will trace the changes and continuities of debates and claims about rights throughout the late-medieval and early modern periods in order to explore how rights are historically asserted, justified, and defended before turning to the transformation of rights–from natural to human–in relation to the American and French Revolutions.

At the end of this course, students will have acquired an understanding of and critical perspective on the history of rights traditions that inform the Human Rights documents and regimes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This course will be designed to fulfill the 4000-level requirements of the History Department meaning that it will guide students through an original research project that will utilize both primary and secondary sources and entail significant writing.