100 books like The American Language of Rights

By Richard A. Primus,

Here are 100 books that The American Language of Rights fans have personally recommended if you like The American Language of Rights. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Conservative Human Rights Revolution: European Identity, Transnational Politics, and the Origins of the European Convention

Nat Rubner Author Of The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Volume 1: Political, Intellectual & Cultural Origins

From my list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights.

Who am I?

Following my PhD at King’s College, Cambridge I was invited by the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London to serve as an Honorary Research Fellow. This enabled me to focus fully on 15 years of research into previously untapped archives and interviews with more than twenty-five politicians and jurists active in the process of the African human rights charter. By coincidence, thirty-five years or so ago, in an earlier incarnation, I was also responsible for editing the first public debt prospectus for the African Development Bank in Abidjan.

Nat's book list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights

Nat Rubner Why did Nat love this book?

An outstanding book that reinterprets the origins of the European human rights system.

His compelling analysis is supported, as one would hope, with an impressive range of archival research. It will surprise the modern reader as it stands in stark reproach to the widespread understanding of the European political project and human rights system as constructed on a liberal-minded ethical foundation. A real delight.

By Marco Duranti,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Conservative Human Rights Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The European Court of Human Rights has long held unparalleled sway over questions of human rights violations across continental Europe, Britain, and beyond. Both its supporters and detractors accept the common view that the European human rights system was originally devised as a means of containing communism and fascism after World War II.

In The Conservative Human Rights Revolution, Marco Duranti radically reinterprets the origins of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), arguing that conservatives conceived of the treaty not only as a Cold War measure, but also as a vehicle for pursuing a controversial domestic political agenda on…


Book cover of Bills of Rights and Decolonization: The Emergence of Domestic Human Rights Instruments in Britain's Overseas Territories

Nat Rubner Author Of The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Volume 1: Political, Intellectual & Cultural Origins

From my list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights.

Who am I?

Following my PhD at King’s College, Cambridge I was invited by the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London to serve as an Honorary Research Fellow. This enabled me to focus fully on 15 years of research into previously untapped archives and interviews with more than twenty-five politicians and jurists active in the process of the African human rights charter. By coincidence, thirty-five years or so ago, in an earlier incarnation, I was also responsible for editing the first public debt prospectus for the African Development Bank in Abidjan.

Nat's book list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights

Nat Rubner Why did Nat love this book?

This is the first book, following the opening of the archives thirty years after independence, to examine how bills of rights came to be incorporated into the independence constitutions of Britain’s former colonial territories.

It shows why and how, after the unfortunate political experience of an independent Ghana under Nkrumah, the Colonial Office foisted bills of rights on the independence constitutions of its colonial territories. A case of British do as I say and not as I do.

By Charles Parkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bills of Rights and Decolonization as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bills of Rights and Decolonization analyzes the British Government's radical change in policy during the late 1950s on the use of bills of rights in colonial territories nearing independence. More broadly it explores the political dimensions of securing the protection of human rights at independence and the peaceful transfer of power through constitutional means.

This book fills a major gap in the literature on British and Commonwealth law, history, and politics by documenting how bills of rights became commonplace in Britain's former overseas territories. It provides a detailed empirical account of the origins of the bills of rights in Britain's…


Book cover of Human Rights and the End of Empire: Britain and the Genesis of the European Convention

Nat Rubner Author Of The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Volume 1: Political, Intellectual & Cultural Origins

From my list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights.

Who am I?

Following my PhD at King’s College, Cambridge I was invited by the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London to serve as an Honorary Research Fellow. This enabled me to focus fully on 15 years of research into previously untapped archives and interviews with more than twenty-five politicians and jurists active in the process of the African human rights charter. By coincidence, thirty-five years or so ago, in an earlier incarnation, I was also responsible for editing the first public debt prospectus for the African Development Bank in Abidjan.

Nat's book list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights

Nat Rubner Why did Nat love this book?

The most extensive narrative on the administrative and legal process that brought about the European Convention on Human Rights but with a primary focus on the perspective of the British Foreign Office and the Colonial Office. It therefore provides a useful complementary narrative to the essentially political and ideological narrative presented by Duranti. A tour de force.  

By A. W. Brian Simpson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Human Rights and the End of Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The European Convention on Human Rights, which came into force in 1953 after signature, in 1950, established the most effective system for the international protection of human rights which has yet conme into existence anywhere in the world. Since the collapse of communism it has come to be extended to the countries of central and eastern Europe, and some seven hundred million people now, at least in principle, live under its protection. It remains far and away the most significant achievement of the Council of Europe, which was established in 1949, and was the first product of the postwar movement…


Book cover of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting, and Intent

Nat Rubner Author Of The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Volume 1: Political, Intellectual & Cultural Origins

From my list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights.

Who am I?

Following my PhD at King’s College, Cambridge I was invited by the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London to serve as an Honorary Research Fellow. This enabled me to focus fully on 15 years of research into previously untapped archives and interviews with more than twenty-five politicians and jurists active in the process of the African human rights charter. By coincidence, thirty-five years or so ago, in an earlier incarnation, I was also responsible for editing the first public debt prospectus for the African Development Bank in Abidjan.

Nat's book list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights

Nat Rubner Why did Nat love this book?

The author’s perspective on human rights and the process would not be something I would endorse, but it is, nonetheless, to date, the best book on the details of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it wound its way through the United Nations. 

By Johannes Morsink,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1999
Born of a shared revulsion against the horrors of the Holocaust, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has become the single most important statement of international ethics. It was inspired by and reflects the full scope of President Franklin Roosevelt's famous four freedoms: "the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear." Written by a UN commission led by Eleanor Roosevelt and adopted in 1948, the Declaration has become the moral backbone of more than two hundred human rights…


Book cover of Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence, and U.S. Foreign Policy

Lucia M. Rafanelli Author Of Promoting Justice Across Borders: The Ethics of Reform Intervention

From my list on Political theory books on what makes a just world.

Who am I?

To me, political and moral questions have always seemed intertwined. My career as a political theorist is dedicated to using philosophical argument to untangle the moral questions surrounding real-world politics. I am especially interested in ethics and international affairs, including the ethics of intervention, what a just world order would look like, and how our understandings of familiar ideals—like justice, democracy, and equality—would change if we thought they were not only meant to be pursued within each nation-state, but also globally, by humanity as a whole. As faculty in Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University, I explore these issues with colleagues and students alike.

Lucia's book list on Political theory books on what makes a just world

Lucia M. Rafanelli Why did Lucia love this book?

This book questions orthodoxies that need questioning. Shue argues that rights to the goods one needs to survive (like food, potable water, and clean air) are just as morally urgent and just as important to protect as rights to bodily security.

He offers a bold defense of the moral imperative to ensure everyone in the world has their most important rights, including rights to subsistence goods, protected. This, in turn, has significant implications for US foreign policy. It shows the status quoin which states like the US retain massive amounts of wealth, safeguarding their own citizens’ pursuit of even their most trivial preferences while people elsewhere in the world starve—to be morally indefensible.

By Henry Shue,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Basic Rights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An expanded and updated edition of a classic work on human rights and global justice

Since its original publication, Basic Rights has proven increasingly influential to those working in political philosophy, human rights, global justice, and the ethics of international relations and foreign policy, particularly in debates regarding foreign policy's role in alleviating global poverty. Henry Shue asks: Which human rights ought to be the first honored and the last sacrificed? Shue argues that subsistence rights, along with security rights and liberty rights, serve as the ground of all other human rights. This classic work, now available in a thoroughly…


Book cover of Placeless People: Writings, Rights, and Refugees

Peter Gatrell Author Of The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent

From my list on the history of migration and refugees.

Who am I?

I am interested in the history of people on the move, and in particular how migrants and refugees negotiated the upheavals of war and revolution in the 20th century. Originally, I turned to these topics as a specialist in Russian history, but I have since broadened my perspective to consider the causes and consequences of mass population displacement in other parts of the world. I have just retired from the History faculty at the University of Manchester, where I taught since 1976. In 2019 I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences.

Peter's book list on the history of migration and refugees

Peter Gatrell Why did Peter love this book?

My final choice is a scintillating work of scholarship by Lyndsey Stonebridge, Professor of Humanities and Human Rights at the University of Birmingham. Entitled Placeless People: Writing, Rights, and Refugees, it draws upon a range of reportage, political theory, poetry, and other texts to ask challenging questions about the stance that modern states and citizens in Western societies adopt towards refugees who are sometimes described as distant strangers. By engaging with authors who are relatively well known, such as George Orwell, W.H. Auden, Simone Weil, Samuel Beckett, and the political philosopher Hannah Arendt, and with those who may be less familiar, such as the American journalist Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961) and the contemporary Palestinian Lebanese-born poet Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, Stonebridge insists that it is essential to portray refugees as deserving and demanding something other than charity or humanitarian concern no matter how well-intentioned. Instead, the appropriate response is to demand…

By Lyndsey Stonebridge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Placeless People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1944 the political philosopher and refugee, Hannah Arendt wrote: 'Everywhere the word 'exile' which once had an undertone of almost sacred awe, now provokes the idea of something simultaneously suspicious and unfortunate.' Today's refugee 'crisis' has its origins in the political-and imaginative-history of the last century. Exiles from other places have often caused trouble for ideas about sovereignty, law and nationhood. But the meanings of exile
changed dramatically in the twentieth century. This book shows just how profoundly the calamity of statelessness shaped modern literature and thought. For writers such as Hannah Arendt, Franz Kafka, W.H. Auden, George Orwell,…


Book cover of Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century

Michael Freeman Author Of Human Rights

From my list on the power and the limits of human rights.

Who am I?

I am an emeritus professor in the Department of Government, University of Essex. I taught political theory for many years with a speciality in the theory and practice of human rights. I'm the author of Edmund Burke and the Critique of Political Radicalism and Human Rights. I've published many articles in political theory, philosophy of social science, and human rights. I've directed academic programmes in political theory, The Enlightenment, and human rights. I've lectured on human rights in some 25 countries. I was a founder-member of my local branch of Amnesty International and served on the board of Amnesty’s British Section for five years, for two years as its Chairperson.

Michael's book list on the power and the limits of human rights

Michael Freeman Why did Michael love this book?

When social scientists began to ask the question – neglected by human rights lawyers and activists – whether international human rights law actually improved the enjoyment of human rights, they came up with largely negative answers: international human rights law had no effect, or very little effect, or was sometimes counter-productive, being associated with more human rights violations, depending on the research methods used. Kathryn Sikkink was among the leading scholars challenging these results, showing that the previous studies greatly oversimplified the human rights world.

Her book, Evidence for Hope, brings together the empirical evidence showing that human rights law sometimes, in some places, improves the enjoyment of some human rights. Sikkink defends the human rights movement from the charge of `utopianism’ by turning the tables on the critics and accusing them of unrealistic expectations for human rights law. The human rights struggle takes place on a hard road…

By Kathryn Sikkink,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Evidence for Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A history of the successes of the human rights movement and a case for why human rights work

Evidence for Hope makes the case that yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. Guantanamo is still open and governments are cracking down on NGOs everywhere. But human rights expert Kathryn Sikkink draws on decades of research and fieldwork to provide a rigorous rebuttal to doubts about human rights laws and institutions. Past and current trends indicate that in the long term, human rights movements have been…


Book cover of The Social Contract

Lynn Hunt Author Of Inventing Human Rights: A History

From my list on why we care about human rights.

Who am I?

Having personally witnessed the great expansion of rights in my lifetime, I wanted to know how this belief in rights took root. Equality is not a natural idea; most societies have been shaped by hierarchies since the beginning of time. I was led to the late eighteenth century as a crucial period for the articulation of universal human rights. And that led to me the abolition of torture, the abolition of slavery, and the idea of “declaring” rights which gave them a surprising force. Once universal rights were declared, those still excluded (women, slaves) wanted to know why and much of modern times has been concerned with just that question.

Lynn's book list on why we care about human rights

Lynn Hunt Why did Lynn love this book?

You always knew you should read Rousseau, but you didn’t. His novel Julie is too long, though eighteenth-century readers did not think so. This book is abstract but if you get beyond that first impression and think like an eighteenth-century person your mind will be blown. At a time when most people listened to the authorities (in church and state), Rousseau started from the simple proposition that anyone could think through the basic issues of social and political life. He takes everything down to first principles and changes everything by making democracy seem thinkable.

By Jean-Jacques Rousseau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Social Contract as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau writes, "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains." This statement exemplifies the main idea behind "The Social Contract", in other words that man is essentially free if it weren't for the oppression of political organizations such as government. Rousseau goes on to lay forth the principles that he deems most important for achieving political right amongst people.


Book cover of Human Rights and Their Limits

Michael Freeman Author Of Human Rights

From my list on the power and the limits of human rights.

Who am I?

I am an emeritus professor in the Department of Government, University of Essex. I taught political theory for many years with a speciality in the theory and practice of human rights. I'm the author of Edmund Burke and the Critique of Political Radicalism and Human Rights. I've published many articles in political theory, philosophy of social science, and human rights. I've directed academic programmes in political theory, The Enlightenment, and human rights. I've lectured on human rights in some 25 countries. I was a founder-member of my local branch of Amnesty International and served on the board of Amnesty’s British Section for five years, for two years as its Chairperson.

Michael's book list on the power and the limits of human rights

Michael Freeman Why did Michael love this book?

Wiktor Osiatyński was a distinguished Polish constitutional and human rights lawyer who died in 2017 and who, among many other achievements, contributed to the drafting of the post-Communist constitution of Poland. He was a member of the board of the Open Society Foundation and a greatly admired teacher of human rights. Human Rights and Their Limits is one of the most carefully balanced accounts of human rights available in English. Osiatyński argues against human rights absolutism, pointing out that excessive respect for rights can undermine the democracy that is the precondition of rights protection, and that rights have to be balanced against other social and personal values.

He vividly illustrates the hypocrisy of states that talk the talk of human rights when it suits their interests but refuse to walk the walk when it does not. The hope for human rights, therefore, lies primarily not in the institutions of the…

By Wiktor Osiatyński,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Human Rights and Their Limits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Human Rights and their Limits shows that the concept of human rights has developed in waves: each call for rights served the purpose of social groups that tried to stop further proliferation of rights once their own goals were reached. While defending the universality of human rights as norms of behavior, Osiatynski admits that the philosophy on human rights does not need to be universal. Instead he suggests that the enjoyment of social rights should be contingent upon the recipient's contribution to society. He calls for a 'soft universalism' that will not impose rights on others but will share the…


Book cover of Human Rights for Pragmatists: Social Power in Modern Times

Mark G. Pomar Author Of Cold War Radio: The Russian Broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

From my list on critical world events from a new angle.

Who am I?

Since I read George Kennan’s award-winning memoirs when I was still in high school, I have been fascinated by world history in general and specifically by the Soviet Union (Russia) and Central/Eastern Europe. I have a PhD in Russian studies and my 40+ year career has included academia, government, non-profit organizations, and the foundation sector. My professional experience has reinforced my belief that to understand today’s world and to formulate effective national security strategy one must study the roots of political, economic, or social events.   

Mark's book list on critical world events from a new angle

Mark G. Pomar Why did Mark love this book?

Jack Snyder addresses one of the most important issues of our times: how to protect human rights.

Based on thorough research, Snyder develops an innovative roadmap for dealing with a broad agenda of human rights issues: impunity from atrocities, dilemmas of free speech in the age of social media, and the entrenched abuses of women and children.

The brutal Russian war on Ukraine further underscores the need for the international community to protect human rights and to punish those who violate them.  

By Jack Snyder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Human Rights for Pragmatists as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An innovative framework for advancing human rights

Human rights are among our most pressing issues today, yet rights promoters have reached an impasse in their effort to achieve rights for all. Human Rights for Pragmatists explains why: activists prioritize universal legal and moral norms, backed by the public shaming of violators, but in fact rights prevail only when they serve the interests of powerful local constituencies. Jack Snyder demonstrates that where local power and politics lead, rights follow. He presents an innovative roadmap for addressing a broad agenda of human rights concerns: impunity for atrocities, dilemmas of free speech in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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