Module Details

HR291-5-AU-CO: Human Rights In Historical Perspective

Year: 2017/18
Department: History
Essex credit: 15
ECTS credit: 7.5
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No
Outside Option: Yes

Supervisor: Professor James Raven
Teaching Staff: Professor James Raven
Contact details: Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

This module explores the historical grounding of 'Human Rights' by examining the origins of many constituent concerns from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. These concerns include the practice and theory of torture, the definition of man and beast, slavery and the rights of the free man, the persecution and judicial treatment of deviance and witchcraft, the interference of Church and State in the freedom of expression, the development of a language of 'rights', the state-led engagement with matters of identification, privacy and security, comparative notions of human rights and tolerance in China, and, more recently, the international attempts at the definition and enforcement of rights.

'Human Rights in Historical Perspective' gives students the opportunity to engage with a very broad range of historical topics, all central to a modern understanding of 'human rights'. It will develop awareness of the complexity and indeterminacy of many constituent issues, the extent and challenge of continuing historical debate, and the relevance of continuing historical research and writing in the exploration of contemporary human rights issues. What are the historical origins of 'rights' that are intellectual and legal constructs invented and promulgated from very particular places at very particular times? The debates are far from over, they are current, and they are exceptionally lively. This module aims to extend these debates, and is taught, by lecture and seminar, the lectures given by different contributing historians, each with their own specialisms and perspectives. Although the sessions offer contrasting approaches and explore many different subjects, the series also develops a number of important themes across the sessions - and across time and geography. Dispute and argument, both historical and contemporary, remain further common elements.

Learning and Teaching Methods

Lectures and seminars.


100 per cent Coursework Mark


Coursework consists of one 2,000 word document analysis, and one 3,000 word essay.

Further information