Human rights are everywhere. We see them as affirming the core values of human life nurturing, civil and political engagement, demanding basic standards of living, and guarding against illiberal oppression.

But where do human rights come from? Where should they go? What are their limits? Are they the most effective way to promote human dignity or are there other candidates? The past provides the answers to these weighty questions or at least reveals paths for thoughtfully pursuing such questions that have shaped and continue to shape our world. 

This course helps students become deeply conversant with the central issues that have animated the theories  laws  cultures  and politics of human rights in history. With a heavy emphasis on primary sources  we will compare different human rights traditions at key historical moments  showing how they emerged and transformed over time and space. Our inquiries will be driven by three organizing themes: multiculturalism,  sovereignty, and civil society.

This is a split-level Undergraduate/Graduate course cross-listed with HIST 6115.