Human Rights in the Twentieth Century

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Has there always been an inalienable “right to have rights” as part of the human condition, as Hannah Arendt famously argued? The contributions to this volume examine how human rights came to define the bounds of universal morality in the course of the political crises and conflicts of the twentieth century. Although human rights are often viewed as a self-evident outcome of this history, the essays collected here make clear that human rights are a relatively recent invention that emerged in contingent and contradictory ways. Focusing on specific instances of their assertion or violation during the past century, this volume analyzes the place of human rights in various arenas of global politics, providing an alternative framework for understanding the political and legal dilemmas that these conflicts presented. In doing so, this volume captures the state of the art in a field that historians have only recently begun to explore.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Human Rights in the Twentieth Century is a landmark in a field of supreme importance. It is enlightening and therefore disenchanting in the most constructive sense. It brings together a fine group of scholars, mainly historians, to provide historical perspective on a topic that is sorely lacking it and shows the contingency of the deployment of human rights as a political language, the varied roots of that language, and the diversity of objects that it can address.” – Donald Bloxham, University of Edinburgh

“This is an outstanding collection of essays on various aspects of human rights history in the twentieth century. The essays cover a wide range topically – from the intellectual linealogy of the human rights concept to its relationship to states in specific circumstances – chronologically and geographically and are of uniformly high quality. They make exciting reading and together contribute enormously to helping understand one of the most vital and important – but hitherto insufficiently studied – developments in recent history.” – Akira Iriye, Harvard University

“This is an impressive collection on a timely and important topic. Its strengths are considerable, including both stimulating synthetic ‘think-pieces’ on the changing meanings of ‘human rights’ and archivally based studies of how, and with what results, ‘rights-talk’ was mobilized by different groups and in different situations.” – Susan Pedersen, Columbia University

“At long last we have a book that takes a critical approach to the history of human rights. Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann has put together a stellar cast of historians whose topics range widely around the globe. His own introduction raises the scholarship on human rights to a new level. This is the book that scholars and practitioners will need to read and debate.” – Eric D. Weitz, University of Minnesota

"This important collection brings together historians attempting to chronicle the contested path Enlightenment ideas about human rights took as they made their way across the centuries and into the heart of contemporary world politics." -G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs

"Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann’s introduction to the volume, well worth reading, is a sharp and compelling historiographical review that sets the tone for the rest of the collection in its effort to denaturalize human rights and recast them as a conflicted and conflicting language of political contestation. Most of the authors of these essays are writing books on the recent history of human rights, proof that the future of this field will be exciting indeed." -Barbara Keys, European History Quarterly

"...this is an excellent contribution to the field of human-rights history." -Jeremy Rich, Canadian Journal of History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521142571
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2010
  • Series: Human Rights in History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 366
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann is Research Director at the Center for Research in Contemporary History, Potsdam, Germany, and has been a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University. He is the author of the prizewinning The Politics of Sociability: Freemasonry and German Civil Society 1840–1918 (2007). Currently, he is preparing a short history of human rights and a book on Berlin in the wake of World War II.
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Table of Contents

Introduction Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann; Part I. The Emergence of Human Rights Regimes: 1. The end of civilization and the rise of human rights: the mid-20th century disjuncture Mark Mazower; 2. The 'human rights revolution' at work: displaced persons in post-war Europe G. Daniel Cohen; 3. Legal diplomacy: law, politics, and the genesis of postwar European human rights Mikael Rask Madsen; Part II. Postwar Universalism and Legal Theory: 4. Personalism, community, and the origins of human rights Samuel Moyn; 5. René Cassin: les droit de l'homme and the universality of human rights, 1945–66 Glenda Sluga; 6. Rudolf Laun and the human rights of Germans in occupied and early West Germany Lora Wildenthal; Part III. Human Rights, State Socialism, and Dissent: 7. Embracing and contesting: the Soviet Union and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948–58 Jennifer Amos; 8. Soviet rights-talk in the post-Stalin era Benjamin Nathans; 9. Charter 77 and the Roma: human rights and dissent in socialist Czechoslovakia Celia Donert; Part IV. Genocide, Humanitarianism, and the Limits of Law: 10. Toward world law? Human rights and the failure of the legalist paradigm of war Devin O. Pendas; 11. 'Source of embarrassment': human rights, state of emergency, and the wars of decolonization Fabian Klose; 12. The United Nations, humanitarianism and human rights: war crimes/genocide trials for Pakistani soldiers in Bangladesh, 1971–4 A. Dirk Moses; Part V. Human Rights, Sovereignty, and the Global Condition: 13. African nationalists and human rights, 1940s to 1970s Andreas Eckert; 14. The International Labour Organization and the globalization of rights, 1944–70 Daniel Roger Maul; 15. 'Under a magnifying glass': the international human rights campaign against Chile in the 1970s Jan Eckel.
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