264 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Cloth 2015 | ISBN 9780812248180 | $24.95a | Outside the Americas £19.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Intellectual History of the Modern Age
View table of contents and excerpt
"Samuel Moyn has emerged as the most important voice on the history of human rights in the twentieth century, and his book Christian Human Rights will be of interest to anyone who cares about human rights in general and the often forgotten context of the run-up to the Universal Declaration in particular."—Jan-Werner Müller, Princeton UniversityIn Christian Human Rights, Samuel Moyn asserts that the rise of human rights after World War II was prefigured and inspired by a defense of the dignity of the human person that first arose in Christian churches and religious thought in the years just prior to the outbreak of the war. The Roman Catholic Church and transatlantic Protestant circles dominated the public discussion of the new principles in what became the last European golden age for the Christian faith. At the same time, West European governments after World War II, particularly in the ascendant Christian Democratic parties, became more tolerant of public expressions of religious piety. Human rights rose to public prominence in the space opened up by these dual developments of the early Cold War.
"Christian Human Rights is consistently and stimulatingly opinionated. Samuel Moyn maintains throughout his book an excellent and authentic vigor, demonstrating that the genesis of modern human-rights rhetoric can be found in a largely conservative Christian worldview that took shape in Western Europe (as well as in North America) in the 1940s."—Martin Conway, University of Oxford
Moyn argues that human dignity became central to Christian political discourse as early as 1937. Pius XII's wartime Christmas addresses announced the basic idea of universal human rights as a principle of world, and not merely state, order. By focusing on the 1930s and 1940s, Moyn demonstrates how the language of human rights was separated from the secular heritage of the French Revolution and put to use by postwar democracies governed by Christian parties, which reinvented them to impose moral constraints on individuals, support conservative family structures, and preserve existing social hierarchies. The book ends with a provocative chapter that traces contemporary European struggles to assimilate Muslim immigrants to the continent's legacy of Christian human rights.
Samuel Moyn is Professor of Law and History at Harvard University and author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History. He is coeditor, with Jan Eckel, of The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s, also available from University of Pennsylvania Press.