Tom Paine and The Rights of Man
It may soon be the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but December 10th 1948 – albeit a massively significant moment – was not the starting point for human rights.
We could have a long argument about which is the most significant date in the history of the development of human rights, but 1791 has got to be in with a shout. It was in London in February of that year that Thomas Paine published volume one of The Rights of Man, a treatise about the inalienable rights of humanity. Volume two was published the following year. Together they created a storm and were read by huge numbers of people throughout Britain and internationally.
Paine had an eventful life. After having helped bring revolution and independence to America and supported revolution in France, The Rights of Man was written expressly for his British countrymen. It has been argued that it is perhaps "the most forceful and lucid exposition of basic human rights ever written".
This is all by way of a tip-off that Trevor Griffiths’ two-part play These Are the Times: A Life of Thomas Paine is on Radio 4 on 26 July (Part 1 Common Sense) and 2 August (Part 2 Age of Reason), both 2.30-4pm. More info here on BBC website (including the wonderful listen again facility).
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.