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Level 5

5AAH1080: Toleration and Human Rights in Europe, c.1600 - c.2000

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutorProfessor Adam Sutcliffe 
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2 hour seminar (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 1,500 word formative essay, 1 x 3,000 word essay (100%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Assessment pre 2019/20: 2 x 2,500 word essay (50% each)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

The history of toleration and human rights has recently attracted considerable attention from historians. This module will explore the changes in attitudes toward minorities in Europe since 1600, with particular attention to the development of ideas and practices of toleration, and of political and legal structures designed to enshrine these ideas and practices. We will look at the impact of the religious conflicts in the wake of the Reformation on changing approaches to religious difference, and at the arguments over toleration and political inclusion in the Enlightenment period. We will explore the place of the idea of human rights in the American and French Revolutions, in the nineteenth-century struggles over slavery and labour conditions, and in the early twentieth-century international order, culminating with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. We will also look at the postwar history of human rights, focusing particularly on the 1970s and the 1990s. Our primary attention will be on Europe, but for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries we will consider the global development of these ideas. Changing attitudes and approaches to religious minorities, including Jews and Muslims, will be a central theme, but other aspects of toleration and human rights will also be covered. We will look at arguments and movements for toleration and human rights as well as critiques of them. We will pay particular attention to the relationship between these political ideals and actual practices of coexistence, or their failure, on the ground.

Provisional teaching plan

  1. Early Modern Religious Conflict and the Idea of Toleration
  2. Practices of Coexistence in Early Modern Europe
  3. Toleration in Enlightenment Thought
  4. The Early Development of the Idea of ‘Rights’ in Europe
  5. The Rights of Man in the Age of Revolutions
  6. Slavery, Abolitionism and Human Rights
  7. Liberal Versus Socialist Approaches to Rights
  8. Minority Rights and the International Order, 1914-48
  9. Human Rights and Humanitarian Activism: the 1970s
  10. After the Cold War:  Toleration and Human Rights since 1990

Recommended core reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these texts is not mandatory.

Core texts:

Micheline R. Ishay, The History of Human Rights (2008)

Micheline R. Ishay, The Human Rights Reader. 2nd edition (2012)

Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010)

Further reading texts:

Samuel Moyn, Human Rights and the Uses of History (2014 / 2nd edition 2017)

Francesca Klug, A Magna Carta for all Humanity: Homing in on Human Rights (2015)

Hans Erich Bödeker, Clorinda Donato, and Peter Hans Reill, Discourses of Tolerance and Intolerance in The European Enlightenment (2009)

Nicholas Terpsta, Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World (2015)

Alexandra Walsham, Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England, 1500-1700 (2006)

Benjamin J. Kaplan, Divided By Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (2009)

John Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England 1558-1689 (2000)

Stephen Hopgood, The Endtimes of Human Rights (2013)

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