Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 385–409 | Cite as

Subject and citizen

  • Thomas E. SmithEmail author


The literature on the history of human rights recognises the long hiatus between the rights of man and citizen language articulated in the American and French Revolutions and the pronouncements contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. This essay contributes to the understanding of this period by locating a transnational voice of protest in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This protest argued for immediate civil and political rights for African peoples in the British Empire and in the United States as promised by the Anglo-American liberal tradition. While this protest encountered significant obstacles and did not immediately change behaviours, it augmented older protests based primarily on religion and, thus, contributed to the discourse of modern human rights.


human rights imperialism reform black protest new liberalism post-emancipated studies 


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    Lynn Hunt argues that the three conditions of human rights: naturalness, equality and universality ‘gained direct political expression for the first time in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789’. See her recent work, Inventing Human Rights: A History (New York: WW. Norton, 2007), 21.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NevadaRenoUSA

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