Human rights principles may be as old as humanity itself, but the modern human rights framework has been in existence for less than a century. Six stages of development  can be identified on the road to human rights as we know them today:

  1. The basis of ideas about human dignity, as laid down in the various religions, most of which have their foundations prior to the 2nd century BC.
  2. The idea that equality of rights applies to all people, as first developed by the Greek Stoic school of philosophy around the early 3rd century BC.
  3. The practice of a people’s representation to which the administration of a country is accountable, practiced by the ancient Greeks and taken up in Northern Europe from the 13th century.
  4. The increasing concern for the rights of individuals. British authors Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) used the term human rights for both men and women. From the 18th century, human rights played an important role in the Enlightenment.
  5. The establishment of socio-economic rights under pressure from the trade union movement (19th century).
  6. The establishment of international rights and norms in international law based on the principle of universality (20th century).

Read Amnesty’s ‘human rights encyclopedia’ to get more information about the different historical phases.

To which of the above stages do the following historical events and developments belong?

Click on ‘begin toets’ to start. After you have filled in all the questions, click on ‘toets afronden’. You can then click on the ‘next chapter’ button to go to the next questions. Do you want to see your answers? Then click on ‘bekijk vragen’.

History of human rights


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