Rights of Man: Great Thinkers and Great Movements

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

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
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 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

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Your professor

Paul Gordon Lauren

About Your Professor

Paul Gordon Lauren, Ph.D.
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...
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Rights of Man: Great Thinkers and Great Movements is rated 3.1 out of 5 by 25.
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Being kind is always worth a try. A little less emotion and a little more honesty would have kept my interest in the lectures.
Date published: 2011-03-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Stirring but Unsatisfying This course is very well presented, indeed quite gripping. However, the professor’s style is that of a preacher and his material that of a sermon. If you want to have your conscience outraged and your emotions stirred this is the course for you. But, by the end of the course, I had heard little that I did not already know. There is no critical analysis, many questions are left unanswered and few contrary views are discussed. Intellectually, I was left dissatisfied. The course preaches to the choir. There can be few Teaching Company customers who are unfamiliar with, or dispute the importance of, the progress already made in the establishment of the rights of man, for example abolition of slavery, humane treatment of prisoners of war, universal civil rights, and voting rights for women. However, there are many unanswered questions about the scope of the rights of man, their philosophical and legal basis, and the vision for the future. No answers emerge from this course. No definition of what does or should constitute the rights of man is given. Much rousing rhetoric about “inalienable rights” and “natural rights” is quoted but no discussion about what these phrases mean or who bestows these rights. There is no discussion of any proper limits to the rights of man. Professor Lauren dismisses any and all opposition without debate. For example, he does not appear to accept that claims of national sovereignty have any validity although it is not difficult to envisage situations where the grand but imprecise wording of the many statements on human rights can be used by one nation to interfere with the reasonable actions of another nation. Professor Lauren does not discuss his views on what rights remain to be achieved nor does he discuss today’s open issues that either are human rights questions or could be. Is Islamic law in regard to women a violation of human rights? Do issues such as treatment of Guantanamo detainees, right of return of the Palestinians, universal healthcare, and gun ownership fall under the heading of human rights? Does the right of a people to choose their own government mean that all governments must be democratically elected? What should be done about the numerous on-going violations of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights? Perhaps more fundamentally, what moral blindness does our modern culture suffer from? Is it, perhaps, our treatment of other sentient living beings? None of these are discussed by Professor Lauren not does he present a vision of the future based on his knowledge of the history of the past. This course stirs the emotions but does not satisfy the mind.
Date published: 2011-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course! I am an alumna of literally dozens of Teaching Company courses and this is one of my all time favorites. It brings out the total absence of rights for most of humanity through most of human history, but also the geographically and historically diverse aspirations for these rights. It then examines the pioneers in various movements for “the rights of man,” their personal stories and their philosophical and psychological motivations. And it ends with a challenge to get involved in the continuing struggle. This has evidently offended some listeners as a violation of academic detachment, but personally, I prefer to learn about human rights from an instructor who so obviously cares about them
Date published: 2010-04-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Lacks intellectual substance This course is one of the most disappointing I’ve heard. My eighth-grader might learn something from it, but it is devoid of intellectual content that adults might find stimulating. I am now halfway through the course, and the lecturer has yet to define “rights,” a subject that has challenged philosophers as well as workaday political leaders for centuries. This failure to define the subject sets the tone for what follows. A right, to him, seems to be anything that is desirable, and he sees little complexity or difficulty in their achievement, beyond the recalcitrance of those with “vested interests” in the status quo. He doesn’t seem to understand that how these “rights” are to be achieved, and at what cost to political systems, are the crux of the questions. Only a sadist wants people to be tortured, oppressed, ground down and exploited. The serious question is how to prevent it. Yet the lecturer not once addresses the profound questions raised by those he might consider enemies of progress—Burke, for example. If you’re interested in a kind of “whig interpretation” of the history of what this lecturer happens to considers civic progress, you might enjoy this. I’m finding it tedious. Charles Dickens, by the way, was a great novelist. His works should not crowd out those of serious philosophers and historians who had also addressed the questions of child labor, working conditions, the ancien regime, etc.
Date published: 2010-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from beautifully done I loved this course and would recommend it to anybody. Why? First, (hopefully) it's non-controversial that everybody should learn the history and issues surrounding human rights, both as Americans and citizens of the world. The content of this course serves these purposes well. Second, with Professor Paul Lauren, you can learn about human rights not only from a leading scholar but also from a career activist, somebody who has clearly spent a lifetime on the front lines in the battle. While I can relate to some reviewers here finding Lauren less than dynamic in his presentation, I was struck by Lauren's sincerity, his palpable compassion, and his humanity. This course is that rare case where the content of the lecturer's character makes a huge difference. This is not a typical TTC course. It differs in its emotionality and its deliberate attempt to arouse audience sympathy and support for the case of The Rights of Man. And Professor Lauren does not pretend to detach himself emotionally, not shying away from relating his own direct experiences and often heartfelt impressions. Undoubtedly, he'd say that the history of the struggle for the Rights of Man -- its atrocities, shames, inspirations, and hopes -- cannot be told in any other way. The course's frequent presentation of the artistic materials around the struggle for the Rights of Man -- the poetry, art, recordings of of inspirational song and speech -- serves to move the audience. All this is not to say that the course lacks intellectual rigor, as that is not the case. But the emotional content of the course is what I will remember best. Strongly recommended, both for the quality of the course and the importance of its subject matter for effective citizenry.
Date published: 2010-01-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Failed I have taken 160+ Teaching Co. courses. Most are excellent. Some are superb. This one is neither. The course gets an A if like hagiography (lives of the saints) or a Sir Walter Scott novel. Otherwise, take a pass. This course gets a B in morality and an F in history/political science, because it abhors ambiguity and inconvenient facts. If you come away from a course and feel deeply satisfied & vindicated, it is probably not a history course. This is not a history course. It is usually bad form to criticize an author for what he did not say. Not here. If 75% of earth's population was in servitude in 1800 A.D. & very few are today, could the change possibly have something to do with sweeping, world-wide currents in education, economics, communication and technology? Ditto the demise of monarchies, empires, and the advent of capitalism and nationalism? Not discussed here. For example, the course states that life is perhaps the most fundamental right of all. Sounds good but why, then, no reference to abortion in 24 full lectures? How does one reconcile competing rights, e.g., the right to life vs. a woman's right to choose? Not discussed here. For example, the course states "the rule of law has the utmost significance to the rights of man." Sounds good, but why no reference to Hitler's policies which were both heinous and (technically) legal. As Victor Hugo said, the law in all its majesty prohibits both the rich and the poor to sleep under bridges at night. A large number of mentally ill in the U.S. have rights which are (technically) being protected, while they wander bereft of food, home or hearth. Not discussed here. For example, it exalts individuals who pronounce on human rights. Sounds good, but there are a # of other, unmentioned theories about the advancement of rights. Some even involve capitalism, e.g., Booker T. Washington and his Atlanta speech. By contrast, the course selects his contemporary W.E.B. DuBois, whose later career included praise for that paragon of human rights, Joseph Stalin. Pin-cushion villains include General Pinochet of Chile and the military of Myanmar. No mention of Salvador Allende, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, etc. Politically convenient, I suppose. If the "vision" of moral pioneers is so paramount, please explain why Czar Alexander II, no one's idea of a civil libertarian, freed 50 million serfs in 1861. (hint: self-interest of the Russian empire) Not discussed here. For example, a big refrain of the course is how law/government is the Archimedes' lever of human rights. No mention of J.R. Rummel's "Death by Government" whose subject is how (big, dogmatic) government was the agent of death for tens of millions during the 20th century. Political science is tricky but vital. Dwight Eisenhower would ask his staff "then what?" re: foreign policy interventions. Throwing pixie dust and ending national sovereignty sounds good but it might generate certain new issues, shall we say? For instance, you may get the same mule (i.e., the populace) but a different/worse rider (see French Revolution or Lenin). Going unremarked is exactly how the ills of national sovereignty are to be cured by (inter)national sovereignty and/or revolution. Current discussion topics could include Afghanistan and Iran, e.g., the Shah vs. the Ayatollahs. Not discussed here. For example, racial discrimination is excoriated. Great. But play fair and complete the discussion. Is affirmative action racial discrimination? If not, why not? If so, provide the justification. Has Haiti felt well-served by its two-century adventure in freedom? Has the demise of racist, colonialist empires measurably improved the lives of people in, say, Zimbabwe? To what extent has anti-racism been used to cloak the issue of "settler colonies," whereby the descendants of people who have been there for generations are forcibly evicted from power, including blacks in Liberia? Not discussed here. With this course, admirers of human rights are taken for a thoroughly unsatisfactory walk in the garden.
Date published: 2010-01-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A secular sermon given again and again and... This was a disappointing course, and well inferior to any other course I have done with the Teaching Company The instructor presents his lectures in a pedantic fashion, sounding as if he is reading them word for word. His tone and content are both moralistic and condescending. He is highly repetitious and fond of stating obvious truths as profound ideas to be presented two or three times. I understand, for example, that "subhuman" means "not quite human", even without being told three or four times in a single lecture. Of more concern, I found the instructor to have a highly ethnocentric view of human rights. When discussing why human rights are only of recent origin, he falls into the too-easy notion that our ancestors were simply ignorent, unenlightened or evil. If we are to overcome the beliefs that lead to dehumainization of some humans by others, we must come to understand the thinking that allows such phenomena to occur on a widespread basis and among educated and intelligent people. If we are to persuade others, we must first understand their perspective even if we completely disagree with it. However, rather than giving us an insight into their thinking, he simply dismisses them, almost as if they are, dare I say it, subhuman. I will confess that I did not listen to the entire course, as I reached a point where I felt the redundancy was too thick and the content too thin to warrant any more of my time. This is sad, as the topic are is one of vital concern in our times and a course on this subject could be both very fascinating and useful.
Date published: 2009-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strongly Recommended I have just completed listening to Prof. Lauren's course on the Rights of Man. As always, I carefully read through the course description and lecture titles before taking the plunge. I was drawn to the subject matter, and to Prof. Lauren's remarkable history of personal involvement in the field of human rights. Despite my awareness that some reviewers seemed - to put it diplomatically - less than enthralled with the course, I felt I could not pass it up. I am so glad I decided to purchase this wonderful series of lectures. The course is a clear, thoughtful, chronological journey through the history of human rights. The message is delivered calmly, yet with a sense of quiet urgency. Yes, Prof. Lauren's delivery could be described as deliberate. Yes, there was some redundancy. And yes, the course might have benefited from more detail in some of the areas that other reviewers have identified. However, I truly believe that no sentient human being can help but be deeply moved by this course. Having thoroughly enjoyed Prof. Lauren’s presentation, I was thus faced with trying to comprehend the several negative reviews. It seems to me that some of the criticism of this course appears to exhibit a disturbing undercurrent. One reviewer dismisses it as "agitprop" (defined by dictionary.com as "agitation and propaganda, esp. for the cause of communism”). Another seems to complain that Prof. Lauren was remiss in not presenting a fair and balanced argument for and against slavery. Yet another suggests that Prof. Lauren espouses a "one-world government", gives insufficient attention to the Second Amendment and the right of self-defense, and is unfair in drawing our attention to the fact that the United States does not have an untarnished record when it comes to human rights. These criticisms, and the generally positive responses they elicited, surprised and saddened me. It seems as though Prof. Lauren’s exploration of the history of human rights – and its abuses – has curiously managed to strike a nerve and spawn reaction. It is certainly true that Prof. Lauren does not, during the course of 12 hours of material that covers the entire globe, shy away from a discussion of relations between the races in the United States. Nor should he. Can we not agree that we should have neither more nor less tolerance for human rights violations no matter who is the transgressor? Moreover,while the soaring ideals and rhetoric that accompanied our founding have long served as an inspiration to the world, the United States is not intended to be the focus of this course. I will long remember this excellent course. I am sincerely hopeful that it attracts the wide audience of which it is so deserving.
Date published: 2009-08-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great Subject but highly biased Professor Lauren does a great job in identifying the universality of human rights in the Rights of Man but is highly biased as to the rhyme and reason for violation of perceived human right violations. I was particularly interested in any discussion of the Asian (Chinese) historical perspective of human rights being the most populated society. I was disappointed in that Professor Lauren omitted these human rights violations and the imposition of the government over the inherent rights of its people. Specifically omitted is the Tai'ping Rebellion, Communist takeover of China (1945-1949), the Kymer Rouge and Cambodia, the Vietnamese communist takeover in 1972 of Vietnam. While it is a good starter course to study the Right of Man - I would not recommend it for indepth analysis of violation of Human Rights since it is broad in its scope and does not provide the overall perspective but a view that any human right violation is a necessary evil that must be the fault of those in power. Given the evolution of man and the necessary evil that accompanies our evolution we can not always be held responsible for our current actions based on the lack of knowledge.
Date published: 2009-08-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Tedious and One-Dimensional This is a disappointing course: it is boring and one-sided. Professor Lauren offers a history of the development of human rights. He focuses on "breakthrough" ideas and on various historic movements that promoted rights of workers, slaves, women, refugees etc. In this the course succeeds (earning my 2-star rating instead of merely 1 star), but it also succeeds at being humorless, repetitious, and condescending. The subject obviously is dear to Professor Lauren's heart. "Rights of Man" is his area of expertise. The professor, however, is a "true believer" in his cause; as such he presents a purely one-dimensional point of view: "X" is good; the alternative "Y" is evil; and that's the end of all discussion! The professor never explains why some persons struggle for rights while other persons of good will oppose them. Better would have been a series of lectures presenting varying points of view, or at least some thoughtful discussion. Slavery is a good example: Professor Lauren presents slavery as a great evil and praises its abolition. Wonderful, but the professor might also have pointed out that slavery persisted world wide for millenia, in nearly every culture on every continent. An institution that lasted so long and was so widely practiced must have had significant benefits for society. What were those benefits, and how did the benefits of slavery compare with the counter benefits of abolition? What were the actual benefits for freed slaves, and did any benefits accrue to former slave owners? Were benefits gained by society as a whole? The key queation that is not answered: How do individuals and societies profit when "rights of Man" are achieved? At minimum, Professor Lauren should have provided better moral and ethical arguments to support his cause. What would the professor have said to Huckleberry Finn, who was certain he would be condemned for all eternity if he helped runaway slave Jim escape? What of the Golden Rule -- surely there must be some hard evidence that the Golden Rule works? Ethical arguments aside, Professor Lauren could have mentioned that modern game theory provides evidence that free, honest dealings create measurable benefits for both individuals and societies. Instead, we hear only dogma. In his zeal, Professor Lauren fails to distinguish state-sponsored abuse from crimes of individuals. Downright bizarre is the professor's assertion that the United States refused to join the League of Nations after World War I because of our nation's policy of lynching black men. Where is the evidence for this ridiculous idea? Also, I was annoyed by an underlying message that one person's "rights" somehow burden other people with obligations. The professor has it wrong. Another theme seemed to be that most people are chronic victims whose problems are caused by the actions of others. I don't agree. To top it off, on two occasions lectures are interrupted by lengthy sung renditions of "Amazing Grace" and "We Shall Overcome." What a waste of time! Better to avoid this one.
Date published: 2009-05-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too Much Left Out Fast-moving course, and held my interest straight to the end. It is probably unfair to criticize Professor Lauren for what he did NOT say, but I found myself sensing that he didn’t give a full account or more context for some of his assertions. For example, he describes America’s bombing of civilians in Germany and Japan, but offers no strategic explanation for these U.S. actions, and leaves the listener to conclude that America is probably just as bad as any other rights-bashing country. If you want to feel good about America, these lectures may not be for you. The professor apparently thinks winning a Nobel Prize is wonderful, but never says how politicized the Nobel Committee has become. For Professor Lauren, statism and national sovereignty are the natural enemies of human rights, but he does not give the U.S. (a sovereign nation) much (if any) credit for spending its blood and treasure saving the world from tyrants. Instead, I recall Dr. Lauren mentions the horrific lynchings of U.S. blacks about half a dozen times. He structures his comments to imply that a one-world government (via international law) is best for human rights, but never goes into the fact that government itself--whether one or many--is responsible for genocide in world history. He says nothing about the basic human right of self-defense, but does read the 2nd Amendment in the U.S. Bills of Rights, exactly as written, yet without adding any commentary whatsoever. His silence here is deafening. The lecturer never mentions Nat Turner’s Rebellion, which I thought was unusual, given the abundant time he spends on the long fight to end U.S. slavery. I understand “The Rights of Man” had to have limitations of time and scope, but was disappointed that homosexual rights (including marriage), a woman’s right to choose, and the United Nations’ ghastly failure in Rwanda were not covered. In the end, I just don’t feel I got the whole picture. What I did get was fairly well done, and provocative, but I will always wonder what Dr. Lauren did NOT tell me, and why.
Date published: 2009-04-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Poor History in a Good Cause The professor is well-intentioned, but a very bad historian. The early lectures, in which he tries to find the roots of human rights in Western history before the Enlightenment and in ancient non-Western traditions, are particularly poor. They are shot through with anachronism and highly selective use of evidence. In addition, I found the tone of the whole course to be irritatingly preachy, but I admit that is a personal taste. I gave the course two stars instead of one only because I recognize that some persons might find this courses useful, such as human rights activists looking for inspirational historical material. However, if you take history seriously for its own sake and not as sermons or agitprop, stay away from this one.
Date published: 2009-04-22
Date published: 2009-02-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Important Topic, but a Bit Remedial Dr. Lauren does a very good job tracing the rise of awareness of human rights throughout history. Despite the importance of the topic, I did not find the course as compelling as it could have been. Dr. Lauren is obviously very sincere and knowledgable, but his delivery could have had a bit more energy to draw in the audience more. To me, much of the material was very familiar (e.g., the French Revolution, the Nazi regime, the Civil Rights Movement, etc.), but it might be more novel for those who haven't been able to study much history. He places quite a bit of emphasis on the watershed decolonization played in the rise of human rights. Yet he doesn't provide much of a postscript of how many of the decolonized countries then adopted highly repressive governments that further reduced the human rights of the population -- or those that lapsed into violent chaos, like Sudan. Dr. Lauren was at his best in the last lecture where he recounted the highlights of the history of the human rights movement and provided a strong case for how individuals and small groups can make a difference. Like Democracy, human rights sounds like a cause that is always a work in progress, a goal to strive for eternally, but something unlikely to achieve its full realization. Additional thought: Dr. Lauren, like many historians, views the cause of human rights through the lens of race and ethnicity. Another interesting perspective comes from Amy Chua in her book "World on Fire," which looks at economic factors as the source of what has been perceived as ethnic and religious strife in the developing world.
Date published: 2009-02-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Starts slow, gains momentum For some reason the professor uses an agonizingly slow delivery in the first few lectures, then changes his style to a more agreeable pace later on. The treatment of "rights for the wounded" and modern era sections on the United Nations are much stronger than the early course content. I found the outline quite unsatisfactory, several minutes or more of lecture would be devoted to a key figure but there was no corresponding notes in the outline. Quite repetitious in a number of spots, the listener is constantly reminded " there was resistance" to human rights movements. After the first few times, this was clearly understood and assumed anyway, given the nature of of the mission of racial, gender, and international reformers. Overall, satisfactory, but not a great course.
Date published: 2009-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible Course I have purchased most of the Teaching Company's courses and this is one of my favorite lectures. I love the way Professor Lauren accentuates important ideas and concepts. HIs logical presentation is one of the best I have seen.
Date published: 2008-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Professor Lauren presents a though and well rounded history on the rights of man that is always engaging, thought provoking, and that will leave you with a craving for additional lectures by course end not because you need them, but want them.
Date published: 2008-12-14
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