Fall 2024

History and Politics of Human Rights

Listed in: History, as HIST-312


Vanessa Walker (Section 01)


[US/TR/TS] This course will introduce students to major philosophical roots, historical developments, and contemporary debates in human rights politics. The course will begin by examining the global historical evolution of human rights, exploring how philosophical developments and historical events influenced modern concepts. It will then examine the growth of international laws, institutions, and policies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Finally, the course will explore human rights issues in contemporary politics. Throughout, we will trace the shifting boundaries and meanings of “human rights,” probe the divide between theory/recognition of rights and their realization, or lack thereof, and analyze the efficacy of instruments and institutions meant to secure those rights. Considerable weight and attention will be given to human rights issues in the context of the United States and its domestic and international politics. The universalizing nature of human rights and their global import, however, compels us to think beyond these cultural, political, and historical boundaries, and challenge assumptions about the meaning and form of universal rights.

One class meeting per week. 

Fall semester. Professor Walker. 

How to handle overenrollment: History majors receive priority

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Intensive reading seminar with poster presentation

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2024