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Revisiting the Origins of Human Rights
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Book description

Did the history of human rights begin decades, centuries or even millennia ago? What constitutes this history? And what can we really learn from 'the textbook narrative' - the unilinear, forward-looking tale of progress and inevitable triumph authored primarily by Western philosophers, politicians and activists? Does such a distinguishable entity as 'the history of human rights' even exist, or are efforts to read evidence in past events of the later 'evolution' of human rights mere ideology? This book explores these questions through a collective effort by scholars of history, law, theology and anthropology. Rather than entities with an absolute, predefined 'essence', this book conceptualizes human rights as open-ended and ambiguous. It taps into recent 'revisionist' debates and asks: what do we really know of the history of human rights?

Reviews

'As part of the growing interest in the history of human rights, 'Revisiting the Origins of Human Rights' offers a dizzying array of insights into how ‘rights’ came to be mobilized, and how context and perspective, imagination and discourse, or ideology and narrative are not just of historiographical interest: they are the very key to understanding what rights are. Indispensable reading for historians of human rights and human rights practitioners alike.'

Frédéric Mégret - McGill University, Montreal

'Revisiting the Origins of Human Rights is a significant contribution to debates about the history of human rights, a field that is full of ideas and provocations. It brings together leading scholars from a range of disciplines and provides numerous original and thought-provoking insights.'

Tobias Kelly - The University of Edinburgh

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