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  • Cited by 6
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
June 2020
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Book description

This volume presents the first global history of human rights politics in the age of decolonization. The conflict between independence movements and colonial powers shaped the global human rights order that emerged after the Second World War. It was also critical to the genesis of contemporary human rights organizations and humanitarian movements. Anti-colonial forces mobilized human rights and other rights language in their campaigns for self-determination. In response, European empires harnessed the new international politics of human rights for their own ends, claiming that their rule, with its promise of 'development,' was the authentic vehicle for realizing them. Ranging from the postwar partitions and the wars of independence to Indigenous rights activism and post-colonial memory, this volume offers new insights into the history and legacies of human rights, self-determination, and empire to the present day.


‘Tracing the global debate over human rights from a world dominated by empires to that made up of nation states, this strikingly original collection of essays reveals a rich and unexpectedly innovative history.'

Faisal Devji - University of Oxford

‘This compelling collection of original essays highlights the transmutation of human rights languages and emancipatory policies as practiced by anti-colonial activists, defenders of new nations, and promoters of colonial and neoliberal policies through the second half of the twentieth century. The book's geographic and thematic focus overcomes a persistent Western bias in the literature and is a must read for our conflicted geopolitical age.'

Jean H. Quataert - Distinguished Professor of History, Binghamton University

‘This field-defining collection represents a breakthrough in the historiography of human rights, focused firmly on the human rights visions and experiences of the decolonizing world. The authors demonstrate that the emergence of global human rights after 1945 was inextricably entwined with the efforts of anticolonial movements and thinkers to imagine new states and citizens, as well as the determination of the colonial powers to contain them.'

Brad Simpson - University of Connecticut

‘… scholars interested in indigenous rights, genocide, crimes against humanity, and other topics related to postcolonial history will find relevant chapters assembled and woven seamlessly together. The theoretical underpinnings of the work will benefit graduate students and scholars of Cold War history, decolonization, and human rights because the volume challenges the standard narrative of the development of human rights in the 20th century.’

H. L. Katz Source: Choice

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  • Introduction
    pp 1-32
  • Human Rights, Empire, and After


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