Skip to main content Accessibility help

From Civil Liberties to Human Rights? British Civil Liberties Activism and Universal Human Rights


This article discusses British civil liberties organisations hoping to engage in a broader human rights politics during and immediately after the Second World War. It argues that various movements and organisations from sections of the British Left attempted to articulate a human rights politics which incorporated political, civil, social and economic rights during the 1940s and early 1950s. However, organisations were unable to express this and mobilise accordingly. This reflected the collapse of the popular-front-style alliances forged in the 1930s and the difficulties in articulating political positions distinct from the ideological polarisation that emerged with the onset of the Cold War.

Cet article discute les organisations britanniques pour les libertés civiles qui cherchaient à ouvrir un débat de grande envergure sur les droits de l'homme pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale et les immédiatement après. Il décrit les tentatives faites, pendant les années 1940 et 1950, par des mouvements et groupes adhérents de la gauche cherchant à construire une politique des droits de l'homme qui comprendrait droits politiques, civils, sociaux et économiques. Cette politique fut mal formulée et donc peu soutenue. On y trouve un reflet de l'effondrement des alliances du type front populaire créées pendant les années 1930, et de la difficulté d'articuler des positions politiques clairement distinctes au sein des polarisations idéologiques dues à l'amorcement de la guerre froide.

Dieser Artikel diskutiert, wie britische Organisationen, die sich während und unmittelbar nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg für bürgerliche Freiheitsrechte einsetzten, versuchten, sich in Bezug auf Menschenrechtspolitik zu positionieren. Der Artikel argumentiert, dass diese Organisationen und Bewegungen aus verschiedenen Bereichen der britischen Linken während der 1940er und frühen 1950er Jahre versuchten, eine Menschenrechtspolitik zu artikulieren, welche politische, bürgerliche, soziale und wirtschaftliche Rechte und Freiheiten umfasste. Diese Organisationen verfügten aber nicht über die Sprache, die es ihnen ermöglicht hätte, diese Politik auch auszudrücken und die britische Bevölkerung entsprechend zu mobilisieren. Dies spiegelte sowohl den Kollaps von Allianzen im Rahmen der ‘Volksfrontbewegungen’ der 1930er Jahre wieder als auch die Schwierigkeiten, die sich aus der Polarisierung der politischen Kultur zu Beginn des Kalten Krieges ergaben.

Hide All

1 Klug, Francesca, Values for a Godless Age: The Story of the United Kingdom's New Bill of Rights (London: Penguin, 2000), 67.

2 Kennedy, Paul, The Parliament of Man: The United Nations and the Quest for World Government (London: Penguin, 2006), 178–9; Hunt, Lynn, Inventing Human Rights: A History (London: W. W. Norton, 2007), 200214; Klug, Values, 86–7.

3 Article 1, Charter of the United Nations (1945).

4 Kennedy, Parliament, 177; the uniqueness of this is also commented on in Judt, Tony, Post-war: A History of Europe Since 1945 (London: Pimlico, 2007), 565; Humphrey, John, ‘The UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in Luard, Evan, ed., The International Protection of Human Rights (London: Thames and Hudson, 1967), 3940.

5 Korey, William, NGOs and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘A Curious Grapevine’ (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998), 39.

6 Kennedy, Parliament, 178–9; Korey, NGOs, 48–9; Morsink, Johannes, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting and Intent (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999); Lauren, Paul Gordon, The Evolution of International Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 116.

7 Buchanan, Tom, ‘Human Rights Campaigns in Modern Britain’ in Crowson, Nick, Hilton, Matthew and McKay, James, eds, NGOs in Contemporary Britain: Non-state Actors in Society and Politics since 1945 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 113–28; Hopgood, Stephen, Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2006), vii.

8 Barry Cox interview with Neil Lawson, Hull History Centre, University of Hull Archives, Scaffardi Papers (hereafter U DSF), U DSF/4/3; this interview is undated but was conducted for the preparation of Cox, Barry, Civil Liberties in Britain (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975).

9 See Clark, Janet, ‘Sincere and Reasonable Men? The Origins of the National Council for Civil Liberties’, Twentieth Century British History, 20, 4 (2009), 513–37.

10 Glendon, Mary, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (New York: Random House, 2002), 221–34, Moyn, Samuel, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, MA, and London: Belknap, 2010), 66–8; Moyn, Samuel, ‘Personalism, Community and Origins of Human Rights’, in Hoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig, ed., Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 85106.

11 Mazower, Mark, The Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century (London: Penguin, 1998), 78; Ewing, Keith and Gearty, Conor, The Struggle for Civil Liberties: Political Freedom and the Rule of Law in Britain 1914–1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

12 For the classic description of this see Marwick, Arthur, ‘Middle Opinion in the 1930s: Planning, Progress and Political “Agreement”’, English Historical Review, 79 (1964), 285–99.

13 Freeden, M., Liberalism Divided: A Study in British Political Thought, 1914–1939 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), 294, 326.

14 Blaazer, David, The Popular Front and the Progressive Tradition: Socialists, Liberals and the Quest for Unity, 1884–1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

15 For the Communist Party of Great Britain, see Worley, Matthew, Class Against Class: The Communist Party in Britain between the Wars (London: I. B. Tauris, 2002) and Morgan, Kevin, Against Fascism and War: Ruptures and Continuities in British Communist Policies, 1935–1941 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989), 39.

16 Pugh, Martin, ‘The Liberal Party and the Popular Front’, English Historical Review, 121 (2006), 1327–50, Mates, Lewis, The Spanish Civil and the British Left: Political Activism and the Popular Front (London: I. B. Tauris, 2007).

17 Moyn, Utopia, 62–3.

18 Buchanan, Tom, ‘Anti-Fascism and Democracy in the 1930s’, European History Quarterly, 32, 1 (2002), 3958.

19 Lindsay, Kenneth, ‘PEP through the 1930s: Organisation, Structure, People’ in Pinder, John, ed., Fifty Years of Political and Economic Planning: Looking Forward, 1931–1981 (London: Heinemann Educational, 1981), 9; The Next Five Years: An Essay in Political Agreement (London: The Next Five Years Group, 1935), 3.

20 Marshall, Thomas, Citizenship and Social Class (London, 1992: 1st edn, 1950), 78.

21 Marwick, ‘Middle’, 285–99.

22 Examples include Laski, Harold, Where Do We Go From Here (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1940); Acland, Richard, Unser Kampf (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1940); see also Joicey, Nicholas, ‘A Paperback Guide to Progress: Penguin Books 1935–c.1951’, Twentieth Century British History, 4, 1 (1993), 2556; Winter, Jay, Dreams of Peace and Freedom: Utopian Moments in the Twentieth Century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 100, 113.

23 Peter Ritchie-Calder to Waldemar Kaempffert, 27 Jan. 1940, Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Ritchie-Calder Papers (Hereafter CP), Acc. 12533/3.

24 Marjorie Wells to Ritchie-Calder, 12 June 1943; Herbert Wells to Ritchie-Calder, 10 March 1943; Marjorie Wells to Ritchie-Calder, 15 Oct. 1943; Marjorie Wells to Ritchie-Calder, 7 Aug. 1943, CP, Acc. 12533/2, Peter Ritchie-Calder to Waldemar Kaempffert, 25 March 1940, CP, Acc.12533/3; Peter Ritchie-Calder, Speech for Human Rights Day, 11 Dec. 1966, Dep. 370, CP, Dep. 370, Acc. 73; Wells, H.G., The Rights of Man: What are We Fighting for? (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1940), 84.

25 Ritchie-Calder to Kaempffert, 25 March 1940, CP, Acc.12533/3.

26 Wells, Rights, Peter Ritchie-Calder to Lord Sankey, 4 April 1940, Oxford, Bodleian Library, Sankey Papers (hereafter SP), mss., eng. hist., c. 518/4.

27 Wells, Rights, p. 80.

28 Ibid., pp. 80–4.

29 Ritchie-Calder to Kaempffert, 27 Jan. 1940, CP, Acc. 12533/3.

30 For Wells's more pessimistic considerations see Wells, H. G., The Fate of Homo-Sapiens (London: Secker and Warburg, 1939); for Wells's idealism, see Boucher, David, ‘British Idealism and the Human Rights Culture’, History of European Ideas, 27, 1 (2001), 62.

31 Kramnick, Isaac and Sheerman, Barry, Harold Laski: A Life on the Left (London: Penguin, 1998), 383.

32 Laski, Harold, The Rights of Man (London: Macmillan, 1940), 32.

33 Ritchie-Calder, Diary Extracts, 15 Feb. 1940, 12 Feb. 1940, CP, Acc. 12533/12.

34 Minutes of the drafting committee, 6 April 1940, SP, c. 518/49.

35 Daily Herald, 14 Feb. 1940, 4; Daily Herald, 19 Feb. 1940, 4; Daily Herald, 20 Feb. 1940, 4.

36 Daily Herald, 16 Feb. 1940, 4; Daily Herald, 14 Feb. 1940, 4.

37 Daily Herald, 8 Feb. 1940, 4; Daily Herald, 9 Feb. 1940, 4; Daily Herald, 28 Feb. 1940, 4.

38 Mayne, Richard and Pinder, John, Federal Union: A History of Federal Union (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990), 23.

39 Daily Herald, 1 March 1940, 8; Daily Herald, 20 Feb. 1940, 4.

40 Barry Cox interview with Geoffrey Bing, U DSF 4/1, Manchester Guardian, 24 Feb. 1934, U DCL/47/1.

41 Ronald Kidd to Daily Herald, 7 Feb. 1940, U DCL 12/4.

42 Orwell, George, ‘Wells, Hitler and the World State’, in Orwell, George, Critical Essays (London: Secker and Warburg, 1946). For Wells’ own assessment see Proceedings of the meeting of the drafting committee, 6 April 1940, SP, c. 518/49.

43 Proceedings of the Minutes of the Drafting Committee, 6 April 1940, SP, c. 518/49.

44 Overy, Richard, The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars (London: Allen Lane, 2009), 263–6; Freeden, Liberalism Divided, 363–65.

45 Daily Herald, 1 Jan. 1940, 11.

46 Simpson, A. W. Brian, Human Rights and the End of Empire: Britain and the Genesis of the European Convention (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 165.

47 Ritchie-Calder to Kaempffert, CP, 25 March 1940, Acc. 12533/3.

48 Ritchie-Calder to Kaempffert, 25 March 1940, CP, Acc. 12533/5.

49 Sankey to Ritchie-Calder, 23 April 1940, SP, Mss. 518/136.

50 Mayne and Pinder, Federal Union, 23–4.

51 Waldemar Kaempffert to Peter Ritchie-Calder, 29 Feb. 1940, Acc. 12533/5.

52 Daily Herald, 20 Feb. 1940, 4.

53 Ronald Kidd to Henry Nevinson, 29 Jan. 1940, U DCL 12/4.

54 Civil Liberties in the New World, NCCL Sub-Committee on the New World, 28 Nov. 1945, U DCL 61/6.

55 Civil Liberty, 7, 14 (Dec. 1947), U DCL 73/Aa/ (2).

56 Civil Liberty, 6, 6 (Feb. 1946), pp. 1–2, U DCL 73/Aa/ (2).

57 NCCL Annual Report and Balance Sheet (London, 1946–1947), p. 5, U DCL 77/Aa (2).

58 Civil Liberty, 8, 1 (Jan. 1948), p. 1, U-DCL/73/Aa/ (2); Civil Liberty, Vol. 8, No. 3, March 1948, p. 7, U DCL 73/Aa/ (2).

59 National Conference on Human Rights, 22–3 Nov. 1947, U DCL 77/5, Minutes of Enlarged Meeting of Provisional International Committee for the Organisation of a World Conference on Human Rights, 13 Nov. 1948, U DCL/77/4.

60 Civil Liberty, 8, 3 (March 1948), 7, U DCL 73/Aa/ (2), Letter of invitation to International Conference on Human Rights, Feb. 1947, U DCL/59/8.

61 Arthur Koestler to George Orwell, 9 Jan. 1946, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, Koestler Archive (hereafter KA), MS 2345/2; see also Hugh Wilford, The CIA, The British Left and The Cold War: Calling The Tune? (London: Frank Cass, 2003), 28.

62 George Orwell to Arthur Koestler, 10 Jan. 1946, KA, MS 2345/2. For a detailed account of Wells and Orwell's relationship see Partington, John, ‘The Pen as Sword: George Orwell, H. G. Wells and Journalistic Patricide’, Journal of Contemporary History, 39, 1 (2009), 4556.

63 Arthur Koestler to George Orwell, 9 Jan. 1946, KA, MS 2345/2.

64 Arthur Koestler to Victor Gollancz, 20 June 1946, KA, MS 2345/1.

65 Civil Liberties Meeting, 25 July 1950, University of Warwick, Modern Record Centre, Gollancz Papers (hereafter GP), Mss 157/3/CL/3/8.

66 Victor Gollancz to Jo Grimond, 19 July 1950, GP, MSS. 157/3/7; Victor Gollancz to Norman Bentwich, 31 July 1950, GP, MSS. 157/3/CL/13; Cottrell, Robert, Roger Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 330.

67 Civil Liberty, 7, 9 (July 1947), 1, U DCL 73/Aa/ (2).

68 Ibid, 3; I. Lattimer to Elizabeth Allen, 29 June 1946, U DCL 53/3; L. C. White to NCCL Members and affiliated organisations, 30 July 1948.

69 National Council for Civil Liberties National Conference on Human Rights, 22–3 Nov. 1947, U DCL 77/5.

70 Roger Baldwin to Elizabeth Allen, 16 Nov. 1948, U DCL 53/1.

71 L. C. White to NCCL Members and affiliated organisations, 30 July 1948, U DCL 78/2 (1); see also E. Allen to I. Lattimer, 13 Dec. 1938, U DCL 53/3.

72 Committee for a World Conference on Human Rights, June 1947, U DCL 77/4; Minutes of Enlarged Meeting of Provisional International Committee for the Organisation of a World Conference on Human Rights, 13–14 Nov. 1948, U DCL 77/4; Report, entitled International Conference, can be found in the papers of Angela Tuckett, Working Class Movement Library, Salford, Tuckett Papers, PP/Tuckett/4/B/1 (Hereafter TP).

73 Victor Gollancz to Violet Bonham Carter, 26 July 1950, GP, Mss. 157/3/1/7; Victor Gollancz to Arthur Koestler, 18 June 1946, GP, Mss. 157/3/CL/5/7.

74 Victor Gollancz to Henry Nevinson, 30 June 1937, GP. Mss. 157/3/CL/1/s—i.

75 Victor Gollancz, Our Threatened Values (London: Victor Gollancz, 1946), 30.

76 Arthur Koestler to Bertrand Russell, 6 May 1946, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, Koestler Archive (hereafter KA), Ms 2345/2.

77 R. Phillips to Arthur Koestler, 19 March 1946, KA, Ms 2345/2.

78 Victor Gollancz to Violet Bonham Carter, 26 July 1950, GP, Mss 157/3/CL/3/28 (i); Violet Bonham Carter to Victor Gollancz, 14 July 1950, GP, Mss 157/3/CL/3/1.

79 UNESCO to Foreign Office, 20 July 1953, The National Archives (hereafter NA), Kew, Foreign Office Papers (hereafter FO), FO 371/107141; J. E. Jackson FO minutes, 7 July 1952, NA, FO 371/107141; C. Cope Minutes, 9 July 1953, NA, FO 317/112495; J. S. Arthur to J. Somers Cocks, 15 Feb. 1954, NA, FO 371/112495; United Nations Publicity Liaison Group: Human Rights Day 1954, NA, FO 371/112495; D. Ennals to M. P. Buxton, 28 Oct. 1954, NA, FO 137/112495.

80 Human Rights Year 1968 in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Report of the United Kingdom Committee for Human Rights Year, London, British Library of Political and Economic Science, United Nations Association Papers (hereafter UNA), UNA /14/12; Leah Levin to Frank Field, 22 June 1978, UNA 14/2/4; UNA Human Rights Committee Proposal, Dec. 1977, UNA 14/2/6.

81 Douzinas, Costas, The End of Human Rights (Oxford: Hart, 2007), 124; Evans, Tony, ‘Introduction: Power, Hegemony and the Universalization of Human Rights’ in Evans, Tony, ed., Human Rights Fifty Years On (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 1011.

82 Hoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig, ‘Genealogies of Human Rights’ in Hoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig, ed., Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 14.

83 Jones, Bill, The Russia Complex: The British Labour Party and the Soviet Union (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977), 40.

84 Pelling, Henry, The British Communist Party: A Historical Profile (London: Adam and Charles Black, 2nd edn, 1975), 116; Thurlow, R., ‘The Evolution of a Mythical Fifth Column’, Twentieth Century British History, 10, 4 (1999), 471–98.

85 Dyson, Brian, Liberty in Britain 1934–1934: A Diamond Jubilee History of the National Council for Civil Liberties (London: Civil Liberties Trust, 1994), 64.

86 Clark, ‘Sincere’, 534.

87 Barry Cox interview with D. N. Pritt, U DSF 4/1; R. Kidd to R. Chorley, 30 May 1941, U DSF 2/8, See notes by N. Lawson, U DSF 4/1, Scaffardi, Sylvia, Fire Under The Carpet: Working for Civil Liberties in the 1930s (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1986), 110–12; E. M. Forster to R. Kidd, 2 May 1941, Hull History Centre, University of Hull Archives, Liberty Archive (hereafter U DCL), U DCL 62/5, R. Kidd to E. M. Forster, 8 May 1941, U DCL 62/5.

88 Clark, ‘Sincere’, 513–37.

89 Special Branch Report, 24 Aug. 1938, HO 45/25464.

90 Dyson, Liberty, 92.

91 Special Branch Report, 24 Aug. 1938, HO 45/25464.

92 Macklin, Graham, ‘Fascism, Anti-Fascism and the Police’, in Copsey, Nigel and Renton, David, British Fascism, the Labour Movement and the State (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 52–4.

93 See Jacobs, Joe, Out of the Ghetto: My Youth in the East End: Communism and Fascism (London: Calverts, 1978), 141; See also Samuel, Raphael, The Lost World of British Communism (London: Verso, 2006), 95.

94 For example, the NCCL's position on the Public Order Act 1936 differed from that of the CPGB. While the latter criticised the whole ethos of the act, the NCCL only challenged the sections of it referring to the use of political uniforms. Arguably, this position was closer to that of the leadership of the Labour Party that the CPGB. Report on Delegate Conference on Public Order Bill, 5 Dec. 1936, U DCL 1/2, Deputation on the Public Order Bill 1936, U DCL 1/2.

95 See Angela Tuckett, ‘Biographical Material’ and ‘Memoirs’, Tuckett Papers, PP/Tuckett/2.

96 E. M. Forster to R. Kidd, 2 May 1941, U DCL 62/5, R. Kidd to E. M. Forster, 8 May 1941, U DCL 62/5.

97 Foot, Dingle, Despotism in Disguise (London: Liberal Publications, 1937).

98 Home Office minutes, 7 Dec. 1935, Report on Activities of the National Council for Civil Liberties, 28 May 1935, HO 45/25462.

99 See Recommendations of organisation sub-committee and decisions of NEC relating to the Communist Party, its subsidiary organisations, and other bodies since 1939, Original Statement, 13 July 1939, Labour Archive, Communist Party and Popular Front (uncatalogued). Blaazer, Popular Front, 170.

100 Special Branch Report, 6 Feb. 1940, NA, Home Office Papers (Hereafter), HO 45/25463.

101 One member suggested that they ought to balance out his name on their notepaper by adding that of Rudolph Hess, A. Palmer to NCCL, 15 May 1941, U DCL 32/8.

102 M. Howell to R Kidd, 15 April 1941, U DCL/32/8; E. Thurtle to R. Kidd, 11 June 1940, U DCL/32/8; R. Kidd to E. Thurtle, 1 July 1940, U DCL/32/8; Special Branch Report, 6 Feb. 1940, NA, HO 45/25463, Time and Tide, 28 June 1941, press clipping, U DCL/32/8.

103 Brooke, Stephen, ‘Introduction’ in Brooke, Stephen, ed., Reform and Reconstruction: Britain after the War: 1945–1951 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), 89; Home Office Minutes, 22 July 1940, NA, HO 45/25463; Minutes, 1 Aug. 1940, NA, HO 45/25463; Minutes, Sir A. Maxwell, 27 July 1940, NA, HO 45/25463; M. Marcus to H. Morrison, 13 April 1942, NA, HO 45/25463; Home Office Minutes, 24 May 1945, NA, HO 45/2564.

104 Ronald Kidd to Journalist, 25 June 1941, U DCL 32/8.

105 Harold Laski to Ronald Kidd, 16 May 1941, U DCL 32/8; Special Branch Report, 20 May 1941, NA, HO 45/25463; Report, 22 April 1941, NA, Secret Service Files, KV 2/2093; Scaffardi, Fire Under the Carpet, 207; Barry Cox interview with D. N. Pritt, U DSF 4/1.

106 Kushner, Tony, The Persistence of Prejudice: Antisemitism in British Society during the Second World War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989), 171.

107 Civil Liberty, 4, 6 (Dec. 1943), U DCL/73/Aa (ii); Barry Cox interview with Dingle Foot, U DSF 4/1.

108 Dyson, Liberty, 29.

109 Hansard Parliamentary Debates, v. 345, No. 4, 1 Dec. 1943, 475. Kidd had called internment the most objectionable feature of the Defence Regulations. Ronald Kidd, ‘We Must Get Rid of Repression’, NCCL Draft Article, U DCL/32/3.

110 Copsey, Nigel, Anti-Fascism in Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000), 77.

111 International Conference, TP, PP/Tuckett/4/B/1.

112 H. Gee to G. Joy, 30 Sept. 1948, NA, FO 1110/145.

113 E. M. Forster to Elizabeth Allen, 30 April 1948, U DCL 32/12.

114 See Schneer, Jonathan, Labour's Conscience: The Labour Left 1945–1951 (London: Unwin Hyman, 1988); Corthorn, Paul, In the Shadow of the Dictators: The British Left in the 1930s (London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2006), 214.

115 Black, Lawrence, ‘“The Bitterest of Enemies of Communism”: Labour Revisionists, Atlanticism and the Cold War’, Contemporary British History, 15, 2 (2001), 28. For the NCCL and Soviet Union as a different form of democracy see Elizabeth Allen to D. N. Pritt, 23 March 1953, U DCL 53/1; D. N. Pritt to Elizabeth Allen, 20 March 1953, U DCL 53/3.

116 Civil Liberty, 7, 9 (July 1947), 5, U DCL 73/Aa/2.

117 Violet Bonham Carter to Victor Gollancz, 26 July 1950, GP, Mss. 157/3/CL/3/28 (i).

118 Victor Gollancz to R.W.S. Pollard, 31 July 1950, 31 July 1950, GP, Mss. 157/3/CL/1/11.

119 Jones, Russia, 51; Stewart, John, The Battle for Health: A Political History of the Socialist Medical Association, 1930–1951 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999); Minutes by R. Murray, 6 Nov. 1948, NA, FO 1110/145.

120 Minutes by R. Murray, 6 Nov. 1948, NA, FO 1110/145.

121 Irvine, William, Between Justice and Politics: The Ligue Des Droits des Hommes (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), 216–19.

122 Wildenthal, Lora, ‘Human Rights Activism in Occupied and Early West Germany: The Case of the German League for Human Rights’, Journal of Modern History, 80, 3 (2008), 517.

123 Buchanan, ‘Anti-Fascism’, 39–57.

124 Douzinas, The End, 124; Evans, ‘Introduction’, 10–11.

125 Coleman, Peter, The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe (London: Free Press, 1989).

126 Michael Hochgeschwender, ‘A Battle for Ideas: The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) in Britain, Italy, France and West Germany’ in Dominik Geppert, ed., The Post-War Challenge: Cultural, Social and Political Change in Western Europe, 1945–1958 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 319–39; H. Read to V Gollancz, 7 July 1950, GP, Mss. 157/3/CL/2/24.

127 For International Association of Democratic Lawyers see NA, FO 975/59; also FO 371/72722 and FO 1110/269. See also, Platts-Mills, John, Muck, Silk and Socialism: Recollections of a Left-Wing Queen's Council (Wedmore: Paper Publishing, 2001), 266.

128 Taylor, Miles, ‘Patriotism, History and the Left in Twentieth-Century Britain’, The Historical Journal, 33 (1990), 979–83; Samuel, Raphael, ‘British Marxist Historians, 1880–980: Part One’, New Left Review, 120 (March-April 1988), 2196.

129 Elizabeth Allen to E. Kahn, 28 Sept. 1945, U DCL/59/6.

130 Ibid.

131 Ritchie-Calder speech for Human Rights Day, CP, Dep. 370, Acc. 73i.

132 Arthur Koestler to George Orwell, 9 Jan. 1946, KA, MS 2345/2.

133 See Matthew Hilton, ‘International Aid and Development NGOs in Britain and Human Rights since 1945’, paper presented at Human Rights/Social Rights Conference, Potsdam, Dec. 2010.

134 Commonwealth Party, Report of the First Annual Conference held in Manchester, 23 April 1943, 1.

135 Sir John Boyd Orr to Peter Ritchie-Calder, 2 Jan. 1945, CP, Acc. 12533/9.

136 Beveridge, William, Social Insurance and Allied Services (London: HMSO, 1942), 170–2.

137 Hoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig, ‘Genealogies of Human Rights’ in Hoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig, ed., Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011), 910.

138 Hunt, Inventing, 208; Korey, NGOs, 546.

139 Civil Liberty 1968 (London: NCCL, 1968), 3.

140 Winter, Dreams, 100–1; Borgwardt, Elizabeth, A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge, MA and London: Belknap, 2005).

141 Moyn, Utopia, 47

142 Kennedy, Parliament, 183–4. See also (last visited 20 Feb. 2011).

143 Marco Duranti, ‘Recasting Human Rights Discourse After the Second World War: The European Convention and the Conservative Turn’, Human Rights/Social Rights Conference, Potsdam, Dec. 2010; See also Moyn, ‘Personalism’, 101.

144 Kang, Susan, ‘The Unsettled Relationship of Economic and Social Rights and the West: A Response to Whelan and Donnelly’, Human Rights Quarterly, 31, 4 (2009), 1022–25.

145 Evans, ‘Introduction’, 5.

146 For example see Sellers, Kirsten, The Rise and Rise of Human Rights (Stroud: Sutton, 2002); Bricmont, Jean, Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2006); Korey, NGOs, 476.

147 Putnam, Robert, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community (London: Simon and Schuster, 2000); Glendon, Mary, Rights Talk (Oxford: Free Press, 1991), x; Douzinas, The End of Human Rights, 324.

148 Eley, Geoff, ‘When Europe Was New: Liberation and the Making of the Post-War Era’ in Riera, Monica and Schaffer, Gavin, eds, The Lasting War: Society and Identity in Britain, France and Germany after 1945 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), 39.

149 Vernon, James, Hunger: A Modern History (Cambridge, MA and London: Belknap, 2007), 277–8; Frank, Matthew, ‘The New Morality: Victor Gollancz, “Save Europe Now” and the German refugee crisis, 1945–46’, Twentieth Century British History, 17, 2 (2006), 230–56.

150 Gready, Paul and Ensor, Jonathan, eds, Reinventing Development? Translating Rights Based Approaches from Theory into Practice (London: Zed, 2005).

151 Berger, Stephan, ‘Democracy and Social Democracy’, European History Quarterly, 32, 1 (2002), 28–9.

152 Marston, Geoffrey, ‘The United Kingdom's Part in the Preparation of the European Convention on Human Rights, 1950’, The International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 43, 4 (1993), 796826; Duranti, ‘Recasting’.

153 Simpson, Human Rights, 219–20.

154 Mikael Rask Madsen, ‘“Legal Diplomacy”—Law, Politics, and the Genesis of Post-war European Human Rights’, in Hoffmann, Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, 63–4; See also, Madsen, Mikael Rask, ‘From Cold War Instrument to Supreme European Court: The European Court of Human Rights at the Crossroads of International and National Law and Politics’, Law and Social Inquiry, 32, 1 (2007), 138, 146.

155 See note by R. Murray, 3 Feb. 1949, FO 1110/145; for Bevan see Bullock, A., Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary, 1945–1951 (London: W. Norton, 1983), 91–4.

156 Madsen, ‘Diplomacy’, 67.

157 Simpson, Human Rights, 347

158 Hoffmann, ‘Genealogies’, 20.

159 Mazower, Mark, ‘The Strange Triumph of Human Rights, 1933–1950’, Historical Journal, 47, 2 (2004), 379–98.

160 Amnesty International website, (last visited 10 Jan. 2010).

161 UNA Seminar on Human Rights, 24/25 June 1977, UNA 4/4/1.

162 Cranston, Maurice, What Are Human Rights? (London: Bodley Head, 1973).

163 See, for example, Stammers, Neil, Human Rights and Social Movements (London: Pluto, 2009), 133–59.

164 Buchanan, Tom, ‘“The Truth Will Set You Free”: The Making of Amnesty International’, Journal of Contemporary History, 37, 4 (2002), 579; Moores, Christopher, ‘The Progressive Professionals: The National Council for Civil Liberties and the Politics of Activism in the 1960s’, Twentieth Century British History, 20, 4 (2009), 538–60.

165 For the JCWI see Dummett, Michael, ‘Unjustly Refused’ in Curtis, Helene and Sanderson, Mimi, The Unsung 1960s: Memoirs of Social Innovation (London: Whiting and Birch, 2004), 168–82; for NGOs and the European Court of Human Rights, see Harlow, Carol and Rawlings, Richard, Pressure Through Law (London: Routledge, 1992), 254–68.

166 Eley, Geoff, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 470–6.

167 Keck, Margaret and Sikkink, Kathryn, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1998), 200.

168 Burke, Roland, ‘From Individual Rights to National Development: The First UN international Conference on Human Rights, Tehran, 1968’, Journal of World History, 19, 3 (2008), 275–97.

169 Cmiel, Kenneth, ‘The Emergence of Human Rights Politics in the United States’, The Journal of American History, 86, 3 (1999), 1231–50.

170 See Glenda Sluga, ‘The Transformation of International Institutions: Global Shock as Cultural Shock’, 224–6; Mark Lawrence, ‘Containing Globalism: The United States and the Developing World in the 1970s’, 212–13; Morgan, Michael, ‘The Seventies and the Rebirth of Human Rights’, 240–50, all in Ferguson, Niall, Maier, Charles, Manela, Erez and Sargent, Daniel, eds, The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective (Cambridge, MA, and London: Belknap, 2010).

171 Eley, Forging Democracy, 473.

172 Mark Mazower, ‘The End of Civilisation and the Rise of Human Rights: The Mid-Twentieth Century Disjuncture’ in Hoffman, Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, 44; Moyn, Utopia, 129.

I am extremely grateful for the comments and suggestions of three anonymous reviewers for Contemporary European History, and wish to also thank Matthew Hilton, Nick Crowson and the audience at a Contemporary History Seminar at the University of Birmingham for criticisms and comments on earlier versions of this article.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Contemporary European History
  • ISSN: 0960-7773
  • EISSN: 1469-2171
  • URL: /core/journals/contemporary-european-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed