Human Rights Continued

As we noted last Friday, December 10th marked the 62nd anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.  This anniversary presents a good time to consider the history of human rights throughout the world. This post will specifically highlight human rights books in the general human rights–history subject, and also discuss subtopic searches in the human rights category.

The Cornell Library contains literally hundreds of books on human rights.  A subject search in our online catalog, Julien, under the heading “Human Rights” recognizes human rights as a subject and provides several related subject headings, such as “children’s rights,” “civil rights,” or “women’s rights.”

Researchers looking for human rights in a world region or a specific country, can look under the geographic  subheading,  such as Human Rights – Asia,” or “Human Rights—United States,”  simply insert whichever country or region you are researching . Subheadings, such       as “–History” can be appended to “Human Rights” or a geographical subheadings for a narrower returned results.

Micheline R. Ishlay, in The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era chronicles how the notion of human rights developed and how it’s changed overtime. She notes that the 27 articles of the Declaration of Human Rights were divided amongst the pillars: “Dignity, Liberty, equality, and brotherhood.” She asserts that each of the pillars represents a major historical milestone and that these pillars support articles 28-30 (3).The Appendix includes a diagram tracking speeches, writings and documents related to human rights throughout time (Julien Search: Human Rights—History, Main JC571 .I73 2004 ).

Daniel J. Whelan in Indivisible Human Rights: a History offers a more contemporary analysis of the Declaration of Human Rights and specifically how these rights have been framed as “indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.” Whelan explores the how rhetoric of indivisibility, interdependence and interrelation of human rights was “settled.” (Julien Search: Human Rights—History, Main JC571.W4232010).

In their book Human Rights at the UN: The Political History of Universal Justice, Roger Normand and Sarah Zaidi refute the traditional argument that human rights are “a self-evident set of objective principles…based on God, reason, nature …” (21). The book has three parts. Part one, “Human Rights Foundations in the First Half of the Twentieth Century,” reviews trends and themes which ultimately culminated in the “emergence of human rights at the UN” (27). Part two, “Establishing the UN Human Rights Framework,” chronicles the process in which human rights would eventually become “universally recognized as set of international law principles” without the legal system in through which rights could be enforced (139). The final section, “The Impact of Civil Society and Decolonization,” discusses how various groups neglected in the initial development of human rights laws at the UN, are heard, and the controversial discussion surrounding the human right to development (246)  (Julien Search: Human Rights—History 20th Century, Main  JZ4984.5. N672008).

Vermont Law School’s, resident expert on human rights, Stephanie Farrior has also written and spoken broadly on human rights topics.  Her writings on SSRN are available at:

Professor Farrior’s presentations, publications and awards are available on the Vermont Law School website, starting with her biography at:

Written by HEC + CAY