Future’s past: in search of human rights histories

The Danish Institute for Human Rights

The thematic focus of the series highlights areas of research that human rights historians have been exploring and which has proven to be particularly promising. Three themes are given emphasis: 1) the need for substantively engaging with writing the history of social and economic rights to achieve a fuller understanding of human rights history; 2) the subtle and nuanced roles of global south actors and their human rights engagements in shaping this history; and 3) an enhanced appreciation of the significant role that a globally diverse range of women actors played in shaping international human rights across the 20th century. 

The time-frame covered by articles is expansive, stretching from the French Revolution to building archives for present-day constitutionalism. The geographical scope highlights how transnational history has been central to recent historiography as it has inspired efforts to explore new actors, processes, and connections as well as alternative geographies in the writing of human rights history. 

We will publish a range of articles that present new research, fresh perspectives, and noteworthy interpretations over the coming months and welcome further submissions to the series.


History shows that UN country-specific Special Procedures are tools for positive change

By: Mariana Montoya & Marc Limon
Français | Español

History has shown that despite strong opposition to Special Procedures, they have been valuable mechanisms for catalyzing positive changes at the local level.

Tunisian human rights activism in the 1960s: Revolutionaries, intellectuals and prisoners of conscience

By: Marc Schade-Poulsen
Français | Español

One should be cautious when conflating today’s human rights understanding with that of the past when narrating human rights history.

The challenges of sharing the unknown history of the South African constitution

By: Lauren Segal & Lwando Xaso
Español | Français

A new online archive and exhibition tells the little-known stories and behind-the-scenes challenges of the country's constitution.

From the domestic to the international: Jamaica’s 1961 human rights policy

By: Steven L. B. Jensen
Español | Français

How the domestic trends of human rights policy in the Global South can provide a deeper understanding of modern international rights practice

More than a united kingdom: how Botswana became a powerful example for human rights in Africa

By: James Kirby
Français | Español

While some economists and political scientists praise Botswana as a ‘success story’, the country provides more than just a tale of growth and stability.

Women and the UN: a new history of women’s international human rights

By: Rebecca Adami & Dan Plesch
Español | العربية | Français

Critical human rights theory has problematized the dominant narrative of European, western male rights.

Boycotting the Olympic Games is not enough

By: Barbara Keys
Français | Español | العربية

The history of human rights efforts around the Games is mostly a history of failure.

Social rights constitutionalism in interwar Ireland: for a people’s history

By: Thomas Murray
Español | Français | العربية

Interwar Ireland offers a rich case-study of popular movements contesting economic and social rights ‘from below.’

What the French Revolution can tell us about the history of social rights

By: Charles Walton
Español | العربية | Français

Achieving a consensus on the terms of social obligation in a society based on equality is both complex and extremely important.

Future’s past: in search of human rights histories

By: Steven L. B. Jensen
Español | Français | العربية

A new series explores different approaches to the temporalities of human rights history and how this relates to their past, present, and future

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