Who has the right to have rights? Motivated by Hannah Arendt’s famous reflections on the question of statelessness the book tells a non-linear global story of the emergence and transformations of human rights in the age of nation-states. In his new book A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States (Princeton UP, 2019), Eric D. Weitz argues somewhat provocatively that “the history of Nation-States is the history of Human rights” and he goes on to show how human rights claims take shape in a nexus between popular struggles, state interests and the workings of the international community. The book focuses on a range of case studies, from the struggle of Greek rebels in post-Napoleonic Europe, to American settlers and Brazilian abolitionists and from anti-colonial Africans and Soviet dissidents to Zionists. These stories unveil what the author calls the “multi-storeyed glass house of human rights”: a fragile, and multidimensional structure riddled by paradoxes and insoluble contradictions. The book steers a middle course between arguments that regard the language of human rights as a post-war invention and long durée teleological narratives about the emergence and advance of human rights. It is a compelling defence for the need to fight for the protection and expansion of basic human rights in today’s fractured world.
Eric D. Weitz is Distinguished Professor of History at City College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His books include Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy and A Century of Genocide (both Princeton UP).
George Giannakopoulos (@giannako) is a currently a Junior Research Fellow in Durham University, UK. He is a historian of Modern Britain and Europe. His published research recovers the regional impact of British Intellectuals in Eastern Europe in the age of nationalism and internationalism.
George Giannakopoulos is a historian of Modern Britain and Europe. He has recently guest edited the special issue Britain, European Civilization and the idea of Liberty” for the History of European Ideas (2020)