Paul Gordon Lauren
$29.95 paper; 396 pages
Paul Gordon Lauren's study of international human rights follows the dramatic transformation of a world that accepted centuries of gender abuse, racial prejudice, class divisions, colonial empires and nationalism into a global community that now proclaims that the way governments treat their own people is a matter of international concern.
Lauren's new book, deemed a "must for every library and school" by Choice magazine, describes the rich history of the international effort to protect human life and dignity, beginning with the "early steps," as W.E.B. Du Bois called them, of efforts to end slavery, assist the exploited, care for the wounded, and protect the persecuted.
Following the carnage of World War I, international human rights efforts garnered greater attention, but these efforts were shattered with the brutality of World War II. Finally, the profound, widespread destruction wrought by that war convinced most of the world's governments to form an international forum, the United Nations.
In December 1948, this body ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a bold proclamation of the rights of all peoples in all nations. DuBois, reflecting on those early steps to protect human life and dignity, said, "What has been accomplished? This: we have kept a vision alive; we have held to a great ideal, we have established a continuity, and some day when unity and cooperation come, the importance of all these early steps will be recognized." His comment makes a fitting start to an authoritative summary of the progress made since then, and a reminder of the distance that remains to the ultimate goal.
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Originally published on April 15, 1999