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Rights of Man: Great Thinkers and Great Movements

Rights of Man: Great Thinkers and Great Movements

Professor Paul Gordon Lauren Ph.D.
The University of Montana
Course No.  4242
Course No.  4242
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Course Overview

About This Course

24 lectures  |  30 minutes per lecture

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These stirring words are from the Declaration of Independence, one of the founding documents of the United States and a powerful example of the importance of human rights in Western civilization.

But the freedoms we enjoy today—

  • to vote regardless of gender
  • to live free of racial segregation
  • to not be enslaved
  • to be free of persecution on religious or ethnic grounds

—did not come about overnight. Rather, they were the result of long and fierce struggles that took place in courtrooms and meeting rooms, in churches and on battlefields, in classrooms and on streets, at home and abroad.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These stirring words are from the Declaration of Independence, one of the founding documents of the United States and a powerful example of the importance of human rights in Western civilization.

But the freedoms we enjoy today—

  • to vote regardless of gender
  • to live free of racial segregation
  • to not be enslaved
  • to be free of persecution on religious or ethnic grounds

—did not come about overnight. Rather, they were the result of long and fierce struggles that took place in courtrooms and meeting rooms, in churches and on battlefields, in classrooms and on streets, at home and abroad.

Understanding the evolution of human rights—its sacrifices, hopes, visions, leaders, and movements—is important to recognizing how valuable and universal they truly are. The story of the rights of man also reflects the triumphant power of the human spirit to change history, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Follow this inspirational and profound story in The Rights of Man: Great Thinkers and Great Movements. These 24 lectures tell you the fascinating story of the rights of man, from the visions of history's greatest philosophers, religious leaders, and political thinkers to the awe-inspiring movements that shattered centuries of inequality.

Award-winning Professor Paul Gordon Lauren, one of the world's leading authorities on the history of human rights, guides you in a story that will strengthen your appreciation of your rights—and of the long struggles to obtain them.

Explore the Roots of Your Rights ...

Human rights issues play a vital role in the political, moral, and legal landscape.

Throughout The Rights of Man, you encounter the powerful historical movements that established human rights and promoted equality by

  • establishing a nation's right to self-determination;
  • abolishing the international slave trade;
  • ending slavery and racial segregation;
  • holding leaders accountable for crimes against humanity;
  • granting voting rights to women and minorities; and
  • providing protection for workers, children, and wounded soldiers.

Professor Lauren roots this comprehensive look at human rights in the religious, philosophical, and political origins of these movements. You trace the ideas of human rights to the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad; learn how philosophers from Mencius to John Locke contributed influential viewpoints; and witness the power of the American and French revolutions to fight for equal rights for all.

As you investigate the origins of the great human rights movements, you follow several key themes:

  • The importance of vision: The rights of man were established by people who worked to achieve a just society.
  • The power of human action: The story of the rights of man is filled with courageous individuals and groups who set out to change the world against seemingly unbeatable odds.
  • The (sometimes surprising) sources of change: Gradual change through reform, violent social and political upheavals, and even extreme atrocities like the Holocaust provoked dramatic advancements in the rights of man.

... and the Individuals Who Fought for Them

You learn of the great movements for human rights. Each lecture gives you an overview of historical movements like the struggle for women's suffrage, the emancipation of serfs and slaves, the development of the United Nations's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the collapse of colonial empires.

You encounter the great philosophers, religious leaders, politicians, activists, journalists—and the everyday men and women—who fought to make their visions of equality a reality:

  • Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Quaker women who organized the Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention in 1848 to argue for human rights for women. Their work culminated in 1920 with the 19th Amendment, which established the right to vote regardless of gender.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, who fought successfully for their dreams of racial equality. Martin Luther King Jr. moved hundreds of thousands to embrace his goal of ending segregation in the United States. South African activist Nelson Mandela spoke out against his country's policy of apartheid and was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, the Second World War leaders who signed the Atlantic Charter in 1941, which expressed the rights of man as the right to live without fear in a world with economic and social justice and to choose the form of government under which they live

The Rights of Man brings these and other individuals to life through excerpts from their passionate speeches and their powerful proclamations, declarations, and international treaties. Professor Lauren's spirited readings from works such as the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech add depth and insight to your understanding of the power of these great historical movements.

A Uniquely Qualified Professor

Professor Lauren has an undeniable passion for the gravity and courage of this remarkable story. He lived and worked in Harlem in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, when he met Martin Luther King Jr. He traveled behind the iron curtain during the cold war, interviewed intellectuals whose political freedoms were suppressed, and sat only feet away from Slobodan Milosevic during the Yugoslavian leader's trial before The Hague's International Criminal Tribunal.

Professor Lauren has spent his career enlightening audiences worldwide, including the general public, professional diplomats, military and intelligence officers, policymakers, and audiences at the United Nations and the Nobel Institute, about the story of the rights of man.

"A great distance in the rights of man has been traveled, and we need to appreciate just how great it has been," notes Professor Lauren.

With this course, you look at the origins and evolution of our human rights, strengthen your understanding of what it means to be a human being with unalienable rights, and become inspired by a profoundly moving story whose latest chapter you're living now.

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24 Lectures
  • 1
    The Rights of Man
    Uncover the forces that shaped the evolution of human rights, including the contributions of key individuals and their awe-inspiring visions. x
  • 2
    The Heavy Burden of the Past
    Race, gender, class, religious beliefs, politics—these are just a few of the many reasons behind the exploitation of particular groups throughout history. Study these abuses within the context of a historical record that made universal human rights seem virtually impossible. x
  • 3
    Religious Belief—Duties and Rights
    The world's great religions all promote responsibility for the well-being of others. Discover how they address this issue and offer four important contributions to the rights of man. x
  • 4
    Early Philosophical Contributions
    Philosophy is also equipped to address human rights. Explore the contributions to the development of the rights of man by early moral and political philosophers, including Confucius, Mencius, Hammurabi, Plato, and Cicero. x
  • 5
    Natural Rights and the Enlightenment
    The philosophical uproar of the 17th and 18th centuries helped instigate the development of natural rights that all were entitled to claim. Witness the growth of this idea through the efforts of great thinkers like Hugo Grotius, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. x
  • 6
    Rights and Revolutions—America and France
    The American and French revolutions were watershed moments in the rights of man. With documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and publications like Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, dreams of progress began turning into realities. x
  • 7
    Rights of Man at the 18th Century's End
    Look at the enormous gap between the declarations of human rights and their application in post-revolutionary American and French society. x
  • 8
    Abolishing the International Slave Trade
    Discover how the passionate efforts of a few individuals and societies (the first nongovernmental organizations) worked to abolish the international slave trade. x
  • 9
    Emancipating Slaves and Serfs
    Slavery and serfdom: two ancient institutions of forced labor that began to collapse during the 19th century. Investigate how wars, revolutions, and political upheavals aided moral persuasion and led to freedom for millions of slaves and serfs. x
  • 10
    Promoting the Rights of Women
    With the abolition of slavery, the struggle for women's rights gained momentum. Follow early crusaders as they developed the women's rights movement that eventually expanded beyond America's borders. x
  • 11
    Advancing the Rights of Workers
    The Industrial Revolution called attention to the exploitation of workers and the poor. Consider the ways their rights were addressed through the creation of labor unions, the allure of Communism, and violent revolution. x
  • 12
    Protecting the Rights of the Wounded
    Explore the development of the rights of wounded victims, from Florence Nightingale's tireless service as a nurse during the Crimean War to the remarkable creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863. x
  • 13
    Rights of Man as the 20th Century Begins
    The First World War proved enormously destructive for human rights—but also initiated developments that ultimately enhanced these rights. x
  • 14
    Peacemaking and Rights—Paris, 1919
    The postwar period saw lingering issues over the rights of racial minorities. Chart the effects of postwar peacemaking, especially the monumental Paris Peace Conference of 1919. x
  • 15
    New Departures for the Rights of Man
    The League of Nations addressed secured rights for children, soldiers, and refugees. Explore the conventions, declarations, and organizations that expanded the scope of human rights. x
  • 16
    The Gathering Storm and Attack on Rights
    Survey the severe dangers to the rights of man that took the form of four national movements: the rise of Italian Fascism, Stalin's Great Terror, imperial Japan's lust for conquest, and Nazism under Adolf Hitler. x
  • 17
    War, Genocide, and a Crusade for Rights
    One of history's most brutal violations of the rights of man was the Holocaust. Yet even during this desperate time of war and genocide, the crusade for human rights never faltered. x
  • 18
    Peacemaking, Rights, and the United Nations
    Forged in a postwar world shocked by the Holocaust, the United Nations at first did not follow through on promises to recognize human rights. Examine the development of the United Nations and learn how determined groups and nations pressured for recognition of the rights of man in the organization's charter. x
  • 19
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    Approved in 1948, the United Nations's Universal Declaration of Human Rights marked a defining moment for universal human rights. Follow the declaration's development amid religious, philosophical, and political challenges. x
  • 20
    The Right to Self-Determination
    A critical moment was the wave of decolonization and self-determination that swept across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and other regions of the world. Discover the monumental effects of this process and the new voices it created. x
  • 21
    The Right to Racial Equality
    This lecture addresses the rampant problem of racial prejudice and discrimination through a study of apartheid in South Africa and the civil rights movement in the United States. x
  • 22
    Setting Standards and the Rule of Law
    Look at a number of significant international treaties that were negotiated, signed, and ratified during the second half of the 20th century. x
  • 23
    Recent Achievements and Challenges
    Look at the continued evolution of the rights of man, including the importance of nongovernmental organizations, the development of the International Criminal Court, and concerns about torturing terror suspects. x
  • 24
    The Rights of Man—Past, Present, and Future
    Reflect on how the rights of man transformed from mere visions to the international treaties of today. x

Lecture Titles

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Paul Gordon Lauren
Ph.D. Paul Gordon Lauren
The University of Montana
Dr. Paul Gordon Lauren is Regents Professor of History at the University of Montana. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. Joining the University of Montana in 1974, he served as the founding director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center and as the Mansfield Professor of Ethics and Public Affairs. Professor Lauren is the author of several award-winning books, including The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He has advised human rights nongovernmental organizations, consulted with governments and the United Nations on human rights issues, and delivered many invited addresses. The United Nations described him as the leading authority on the history of the rights of man. Among Professor Lauren's many teaching accolades are the Most Inspirational Teacher Award, the Montana Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie Foundation and the U.S. Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, and the Distinguished Service to International Education Award. For his scholarship, he was named a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, a National Peace Fellow, and a Distinguished Fulbright Lecturer. In 2001, Professor Lauren received the Montana Governor's Humanities Award.
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Rated 2.8 out of 5 by 20 reviewers.
Rated 1 out of 5 by Righting the wrongs of Man Do not purchase this course if you want a reasoned analysis of what the rights of man are, or from what principles they proceed. Professor Lauren gives a history of the expansion of human rights over the last three centuries, but doesn't offer any critical insights as to the nature of human rights, except to say that "rights are natural." For the professor, the juxtaposition of suffering and empathy seems to create a right on the part of the oppressed, but there is little or no discussion of the rights of free people. Most thoughtful people would see a distinction between individual rights endowed by a creator and civil or political rights granted under a social contract of some sort. For instance, Professor Lauren invokes FDR's "four freedoms," freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear, without any acknowledgement that many thinkers find the validity of the "freedom from" items to be highly suspect. The professor proposes, without explanation, that former colonial peoples have a right to collective self-determination, but cites the national sovereignty of western countries as a great impediment to rights. While this might be true, the apparent contradiction deserves attention. All in all, this course is an impassioned re-telling of well known history, from the professor's own political point of view, with very little analysis or critical thought. January 26, 2013
Rated 3 out of 5 by I had such a mixed reaction to this course that I don't know where to start. The content of this course is important as an understanding of how the rights of humans developed is such an important issue. Most of the topics were expected -- slavery, women's and worker's rights, protection of the child, genocide, racial issues -- and even one I hadn't specifically thought of before -- rights of the wounded in battle. However, I found the presentation of the material a bit pedantic. When Professor Lauren is not repeating his point, he tells us that he is going to repeat his point as it is so important to get. I think I am capable of getting what points are important to me. If this makes it sound like the course is a bit preach-y, it is. If you graduated high school you probably learned most of the material in this course, even if you forgot it. For those of us who have listened to many of TTC courses, this one is fairly elementary. So maybe consider this course a refresher course. November 18, 2012
Rated 4 out of 5 by Subject matter relavent today and tomorrow I enjoyed this course. I don't usually like philosophy , but this touched a topic that needs to be studied and analysed more. I appreciate Prof Lauren highlighting a controversial topic in such a broad manner. July 12, 2012
Rated 2 out of 5 by Being kind is always worth a try. A little less emotion and a little more honesty would have kept my interest in the lectures. March 11, 2011
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