Book 31: Inventing Human Rights: A History

TITLE: Inventing Human Rights: A History
AUTHOR: Lynn Hunt
STARTED: June 11, 2007
FINISHED: June 18, 2007
PAGES: 272
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Great things sometimes come from rewriting under pressure.

SUMMARY: [From] Human rights is a concept that only came to the forefront during the eighteenth century. When the American Declaration of Independence declared "all men are created equal" and the French proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man during their revolution, they were bringing a new guarantee into the world. But why then? How did such a revelation come to pass? In this extraordinary work of cultural and intellectual history, Professor Lynn Hunt grounds the creation of human rights in the changes that authors brought to literature, the rejection of torture as a means of finding out truth, and the spread of empathy. Hunt traces the amazing rise of rights, their momentous eclipse in the nineteenth century, and their culmination as a principle with the United Nations's proclamation in 1948. She finishes this work for our time with a diagnosis of the state of human rights today.

REASON FOR READING: I just can't let my politics thesis go.

THOUGHTS: For a book like this, I'm glad that I can't seem to let my thesis go. Hunt does a fantastic job of chronicling the birth of human rights. She breaks down a specific point in history (the time of the revolutions in the U.S. and France) to detail just how we came to be individuals with specific human rights. I never would have guessed that the birth of individuality would have such a profound impact on one of the most important aspects of human morality.

Sadly, I could not even begin to do the content of this book justice. Hunt's argument is fully supported by her research, which covers everything from novels to torture to manners and law. He reasoning and logic are well founded and easy to understand. Hunt's writing style is simplistic without being dull or patronizing.

This was a fascinating read because it opened up my eyes to just how complicated the issue of human rights truly is. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is even remotely interested in how we, as human beings, have come to view humanity as a whole and just where those ideas first began.

MISCELLANEOUS: My goodness, this would have been a great paper. I wish I had thought of it first.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]