Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Reagan, Congress, and Human Rights
Contesting Morality in US Foreign Policy

$62.99 (C)

Part of Human Rights in History

  • Date Published: May 2020
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108495639

$ 62.99 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • This book traces the role of human rights concerns in US foreign policy during the 1980s, focusing on the struggle among the Reagan administration and members of Congress. It demonstrates how congressional pressure led the administration to reconsider its approach to human rights and craft a conservative human rights policy centered on democracy promotion and anti-communism - a decision which would have profound implications for American attention to human rights. Based on extensive archival research and interviews, Rasmus Sinding Søndergaard combines a comprehensive overview of human rights in American foreign relations with in-depth case studies of how human rights shaped US foreign policy toward Soviet Jewry, South African apartheid, and Nicaragua. Tracing the motivations behind human rights activism, this book demonstrates how liberals, moderates, and conservatives selectively invoked human rights to further their agendas, ultimately contributing to the establishment of human rights as a core moral language in US foreign policy.

    • Provides the first comprehensive history of human rights in American foreign relations in the 1980s centered on the relationship between the Reagan administration and members of Congress
    • Introduces influential but often-overlooked members of Congress to the history of human rights to offer an examination of how individual members of Congress shaped US human rights policy
    • Combines a broad assessment of human rights in American foreign relations with in-depth case studies of how human rights shaped US foreign policy toward Soviet Jewry, South African apartheid, and Nicaragua
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘In explaining how idealists in Congress forced the Reagan administration to embrace and recast human rights, Søndergaard reveals how profoundly the trajectory of US human rights policy was determined by contestation between the executive and the legislature. This richly researched book illuminates a poorly understood decade in the development of international human rights and recovers the role of overlooked actors, both in Congress and outside government.' Barbara Keys, Durham University

    ‘An engaging and original contribution to our understanding of the place of human rights in US foreign policy in the 1980s. Rasmus Søndergaard is particularly effective in highlighting the significance of the newly-formed Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC) and articulating what a ‘conservative' human rights policy meant during the Reagan years.' Sarah B. Snyder, American University, Washington DC

    ‘Søndergaard makes an important contribution to our understanding of human rights in US Cold War foreign relations. Drawing on deep archival research, Reagan, Congress, and Human Rights convincingly illuminates how legislators on both sides of the political aisle influenced the Reagan administration's approach to the defining human rights issues of the 1980s.' William Michael Schmidli, Universiteit Leiden

    ‘This excellent study examines how Congress asserted a role in incorporating human rights into the [Reagan] administration's foreign policy, especially through the bipartisan Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC).’ A. J. Dunar, Choice

    ‘The argument that it was the Congressional assertion of the importance of human rights that forced the Administration to make it a significant part of its foreign policy agenda is compelling. That this assertion was bipartisan and only contested in terms of the location of its application, rather than the principle itself, makes this argument all the more intriguing.’ Mark Hurst, Diplomacy & Statecraft

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108495639
    • length: 324 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.59kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus.
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. After the breakthrough: human rights in American foreign relations in the 1980s
    2. The Reagan turnaround on human rights
    3. The Congressional human rights caucus and the limits of bipartisanship
    4. The right to leave: Soviet Jewish emigration
    5. 'A universal human rights issue': South African apartheid
    6. Two tales of human rights: US policy toward Nicaragua

  • Author

    Rasmus Sinding Søndergaard, Danish Institute for International Studies
    Rasmus Sinding Søndergaard is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow in the Department of History, Lunds Universitet, Sweden. He is a recipient of the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science's Elite Research Ph.D. Prize and fellowships from the Carlsberg Foundation, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.