The History of Human Rights November 30th, 2012 Brianna Kirk
The belief of basic and inalienable rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled to by virtue of his or her humanity lie within early traditions and documents of many cultures dating as far back as 539 BCE. The documents of these cultures include the Cyrus Cylinder, the Hindu Vedas, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, the Bible, the Quran and the Aztec Codes. Documents such the Magna Carta (1215), the English Bill of Rights (1689), the French Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights (1791), each of which include certain individual rights, are basis to many of today’s human rights documents and laws. It was a long fight towards the rights we carry today, people throughout the world have drawn from the principles these documents express to support revolutions that assert the right to self-determination.
When humans first began settle and develop organized city states, there were no human rights. From Mesopotamia (Approx. 8000 BCE), through Ancient Egypt (Approx. 3150 BCE) all the way up to the Babylonian Empire (Approx. 1894 BCE). If you were born in the right family in the right crowd, you were safe, and if you weren’t, well then, you weren’t. These events happened for many centuries until a man named Cyrus (II), revolutionized the idea of human rights. Cyrus the Great was the first king of Persia. In 539 BCE, under his rule, the armies of Persia conquered Babylon. After defeating the city of Babylon, Cyrus did something that marked a major advance in history for mankind. He freed the slaves, established racial equality and declared that everyone had the right to choose their own religion. These statements were then engraved in cuneiform on a clay cylinder called the Cyrus Cylinder. It is regarded as the first charter of human rights by the United Nations Today.
After Cyrus’s capture, the idea of human rights spread rather quickly to places including India, Greece, and later on Rome. It was in Greece that the idea of human rights took on a greater meaning. The Greeks associated human rights with that of natural rights, which are rights that a human possess by nature of being human. Socrates and Plato stated that natural law is law that reflects the natural order of the universe, essentially the will of the gods who control nature. Both Socrates and Plato’s words had a massive effect of the population of Greece, spreading all around the world. The idea of natural laws soon continued into the civilization of Ancient Rome and soon Roman law was based on rational ideas derived from the nature of things. The idea of Human Rights and Natural Law kept getting trampled on by those in power.
It was not until a thousand years later until in England until people forced the King to Sign a Document that stated no one can overrule the rights people have, not even the king. People’s rights were finally being recognized by those in power. The people forced King John into signing this document called the Magna Carta because it greatly reduced the power that he held as a king and allowed the formation of a government. The Magna Carta included many individual rights. Among these rights was the right of the church to be free from governmental interference (Separation of Church and State), the rights of all free citizens to own and inherit property, the right to be protected from excessive taxes, the right of widows who owned property to choose not to remarry, principles of equality before the law. It also contained provisions forbidding bribery and official misconduct.
The next recorded document of human rights was called the Petition of Right. It was...
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