The Routledge History of Human Rights is an interdisciplinary collection that provides historical and global perspectives on a range of human rights themes of the past 150 years.

The volume is made up of 34 original contributions. It opens with the emergence of a "new internationalism" in the mid-nineteenth century, examines the interwar, League of Nations, and the United Nations eras of human rights and decolonization, and ends with the serious challenges for rights norms, laws, institutions, and multilateral cooperation in the national security world after 9/11. These essays provide a big picture of the strategic, political, and changing nature of human rights work in the past and into the present day, and reveal the contingent nature of historical developments. Highlighting local, national, and non-Western voices and struggles, the volume contributes to overcoming Eurocentric biases that burden human rights histories and studies of international law. It analyzes regions and organizations that are often overlooked. The volume thus offers readers a new and broader perspective on the subject.

International in coverage and containing cutting-edge interpretations, the volume provides an overview of major themes and suggestions for future research. This is the perfect book for those interested in social justice, grass roots activism, and international politics and society.

chapter 1|17 pages


An open-ended and contingent history of human rights

part I|2 pages

The new internationalism

chapter 2|16 pages

John Anderson – slave, refugee, and freedom fighter

20A human rights campaign in the age of empire

chapter 3|20 pages

Investigating and ameliorating atrocities in the nineteenth century

International commissions of inquiry in the Balkans (1876–80)

chapter 5|22 pages

The Red Cross and the laws of war, 1863–1949

International rights activism before human rights

part II|2 pages

The interwar era

chapter 6|23 pages

United in their quest for peace?

Transnational women activists between the World Wars

chapter 7|17 pages

The “rights of man” and sex equality

International human rights discourses in the 1930s

part III|2 pages

The formative UN era

chapter 8|22 pages

Social and economic rights

140The struggle for equivalent protection

chapter 9|20 pages

Islam and UN human rights treaty ratification in the Middle East

The impact of international law on diplomacy

chapter 10|18 pages

When the war came

The child rights convention and the conflation of human rights and the laws of war

part III|2 pages

The formative UN era

chapter 11|19 pages

“Why then call it the declaration of human rights?”

203The failures of universal human rights in colonial Africa’s internationally supervised territories

chapter 12|19 pages

Decolonization, development, and identity

The evolution of the anticolonial human rights critique, 1948–78

chapter 13|16 pages

“When you are weak, you have to stick to principles”

Botswana and anticolonialism in human rights history

part III|2 pages

The formative UN era

chapter 15|17 pages

Human rights movements and the fall of the Berlin wall

Explaining the peaceful revolution of 1989

chapter 16|18 pages

Human rights in China

Resisting orthodoxy

part IV|2 pages

After formal empire and the Cold War

chapter 18|17 pages

The universality of human rights

337Early NGO practices in the Arab world

chapter 19|21 pages

How women become human

Chilean contributions to women’s human rights from dictatorship to the twenty-first century

chapter 20|17 pages

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

From dictatorship to democracy

chapter 21|21 pages

Asma Jahangir

Personifying the human rights debate in Pakistan

part V|2 pages

The universal human rights pantheon in national contexts

chapter 22|17 pages

Freedom of religion and the new diversity

414Case studies from Canada

chapter 23|16 pages

Indigenous activism for human rights

A case study from Australia

chapter 24|19 pages

The international LGBT rights movement

An introductory history

chapter 25|20 pages

Rights in isolation

Lessons on public health and human rights from leprosy and HIV in the Pacific Islands

part VI|2 pages

New forms of accountability in a national security world (2001 to the present)

chapter 27|16 pages

The selectivity of universal jurisdiction

The history of transnational human rights prosecutions in Latin America and Spain

chapter 31|22 pages

Caged at the border

Immigration detention and the denial of human rights to asylum seekers and other migrants

part VII|2 pages

The transformative impact of human rights on knowledge

chapter 32|18 pages

Archiving human rights in Latin America

603Transitional justice and shifting visions of political change

chapter 33|17 pages

Emotion in the history of human rights

A case study of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

chapter 34|12 pages

From the classroom to the public

Engaging students in human rights history