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The Rights of Man: Great Thinkers and Great Movements

Dive into 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.
Rights of Man: Great Thinkers and Great Movements is rated 3.0 out of 5 by 26.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Difficult listen, evidences some cultural bias Very difficult to remain engaged as speaker is does not capture main points. Lecture 2 evidences some cultural bias. Was unable to complete the series.
Date published: 2022-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life Changing Course While I hesitate to recommend any one Great Courses lecture above the others because I have listened to many, all of them multiple times, and all are exemplary, the Rights of Man is the course that I would most encourage all listeners, if they could choose just one course, to take. In a world where human suffering still occurs at levels that all too often feel impossible to assuage, Dr. Lauren's retracing of the history of the struggle for human rights around the world and the power of the individual in advancing human rights, and thereby alleviating suffering was, for me, life changing. Not only will resting on the laurels of cynicism no longer feel comforting, it will feel dishonest after having listened to Dr. Lauren's lecture.
Date published: 2019-08-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Content: Mediocre Delivery Professor Paul Gordon Lauren’s “The Rights of Man” offers a fresh insight into what most of us have enjoyed for so long, we don’t stop to appreciate: basic human rights. The very fact that we can use a phrase like “basic human rights” is testimony to centuries of struggle that his course brings to light. We’re introduced to visionaries from every continent who saw human rights as “natural,” “universal,” and “equal” long before those concepts were even grudgingly accepted. It hones an appreciation of the freedoms we enjoy, and the crusaders who brought them to us. That said, I can’t escape the feeling that Professor Lauren is used to speaking in enormous lecture halls filled with semi-interested sophomores who are trying to get past a required course. The pace of the lectures is unreasonably slow, and given to unnecessary pauses while the good doctor turns to his side; lifts the book; turns to the marked page; lifts out the book marker; finds the intended quote; and then reads the darn thing. I suspect he’s used to letting the sophomores catch up on their note-writing. Hey, doc: they got teleprompters. Use ‘em. I watch his course while exercising, which is an advantage: I’m not likely to nod off. He tends to dwell on the obvious, and if you got a nickel for every time he says “let me repeat that…” you could pay for the course. It’s almost a pity there’s no final exam: he’s very clear on what he expects you to give back to him on the essay. My complaint is that the time consumed with the many repetitions of these pauses - and similar fillers – could better be devoted to fleshing out the material. How about more details of the numerous declarations and treaties that establish these rights? How about a few more anecdotes about the champions of human rights we should so admire? Pick up the pace. Give us more material for our thirty minutes. Nonetheless, the course is definitely worth the price in both time and money. It renews my appreciation of the rights we take as normal and natural, though that is only so in the past several centuries of human history.
Date published: 2017-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Excellent overview of the history of "rights." Professor Lauren is an advocate of human rights, so it's only natural that he would be passionate about (and personally involved in) his subject.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Surprising Errors Mar Historical Overview: I hesitated to get these audio lectures after seeing the low ratings on the page. But after researching the lecturer I learned that his books on this topic have been very well received in the academic community. My gamble was not rewarded. Some reviewers complain that there's not any discussion of underlying theories and philosophical underpinnings of notions of rights, but my complaint is that the Professor did not present some very important thinkers in an accurate way. For example, while discussing the groundbreaking philosophers, Hobbes and Locke, the lecturer states repeatedly that Hobbes was a Divine Rights Theorist. I was almost shocked given his credentials, but he repeated it several times and it is also contained in the guidebook. Why make a big deal of this? Well, Hobbes is usually seen as the first truly modern political thinker, and he was the first Western thinker to say that the Rights of citizens are derived from their own consent in a social contract. The sovereign ("Leviathan") is bound to protect our right to life, and so security is about the only significant right we gain in Hobbes gloomy calculations. But the authority of the state is legitimate only because citizens have conferred it to the state. Hobbes explicitly denied Divine Rights theory, and for this (and his materialist metaphysics) he was seen as an atheist by many of his contemporaries. But Locke's religious theory of Natural Rights followed Hobbes in using the social contract model to justify the legitimacy of government. The idea that political power rests ultimately on the consent of the governed was already present in Hobbes. Only he thought most people would sacrifice most of their liberties in exchange for security of person (right to life). This pessimistic assessment is in part explained by the fact that Hobbes lived in a violent era of civil wars and religious wars in which awful carnage was a fact of life. Locke is certainly the foundation of Western Human Rights theory in its modern incarnation. Life, Liberty and Property are fundamental God-given ("Natural Rights"). This was the starting point in Western legal theory. To get the origin of social contract theory (the basis of legitimacy is consent of the governed for Hobbes) is not an inconsequential error, but troubling coming from an expert in Human Rights history and theory. There were other less important errors such as mistaking Plato for an early human rights advocate. But it is the Hobbes blunder that made me feel this prof was an unreliable guide. I truly found it hard to take any information given for granted. He touches on dozens of thinkers in a quick and fleeting fashion, and usually without much analysis. I would not assume that what he says about the theorists or the general history is accurate. Caveat Emptor.
Date published: 2016-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Passionate Lecturer, Fascinating Subject Don't mistake Professor Paul Gordon Lauren's soft zen-like voice for disinterest. On the contrary, as one proceeds through this course, the presenter's passionate belief in the advancement of human rights becomes more and more apparent with each lecture, culminating in his sharing of his personal encounter with East German police intent on depriving him of his own freedom. In a systematic and organized manner that builds over the course of the lectures, Professor Lauren explains the evolution of human rights from early times to modern day issues. Included in his discussions are the evolution of human rights for those held in slavery, for women, for children, and for those of different races. He tackles such difficult subjects as the holocaust, genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia, and also shares moments of triumph in the struggle for human rights. This includes the development of the World Court, the origins of the Geneva Convention, the formation of pivotal organizations such as the NAACP, Save the Children and Amnesty International and the arrest of Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet. His explanation of the failures of the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference and the subsequent struggle for racial equality is excellent. The course builds to a wonderful crescendo as Professor Laurence explains both how far society as advanced in its struggle to recognize and protect the rights of man, and how much is yet to be done. He also powerfully makes the case for why advancement in human rights need not come from governments or great leaders and how ordinary people can make a difference. I found this course to be exceptionally interesting and I recommend it highly, especially to anyone with an interest in social justice.
Date published: 2015-06-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2013-01-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2012-11-18
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The Rights of Man brings individuals to life through excerpts from their passionate speeches and their powerful proclamations


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.

The Rights of Man

01: 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.

29 min
The Heavy Burden of the Past

02: 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.

33 min
Religious Belief—Duties and Rights

03: 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.

30 min
Early Philosophical Contributions

04: 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.

30 min
Natural Rights and the Enlightenment

05: 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.

31 min
Rights and Revolutions—America and France

06: 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.

31 min
Rights of Man at the 18th Century's End

07: 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.

30 min
Abolishing the International Slave Trade

08: 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.

29 min
Emancipating Slaves and Serfs

09: 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.

30 min
Promoting the Rights of Women

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.

30 min
Advancing the Rights of Workers

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.

31 min
Protecting the Rights of the Wounded

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.

30 min
Rights of Man as the 20th Century Begins

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.

32 min
Peacemaking and Rights—Paris, 1919

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.

31 min
New Departures for the Rights of Man

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.

30 min
The Gathering Storm and Attack on Rights

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.

29 min
War, Genocide, and a Crusade for Rights

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.

31 min
Peacemaking, Rights, and the United Nations

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.

30 min
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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.

28 min
The Right to Self-Determination

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.

31 min
The Right to Racial Equality

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.

29 min
Setting Standards and the Rule of Law

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.

30 min
Recent Achievements and Challenges

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.

30 min
The Rights of Man—Past, Present, and Future

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.

31 min