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Unit of study_

HSTY2616: The Human Rights Revolution

What accounts for the spectacular rise of human rights movements and norms from 1945 to the present? This unit investigates the causes and consequences of this radical global transformation in transnational activism, foreign policy and international law. The first portion of the unit explores the early history of natural rights, minority rights, women's rights and humanitarianism. The second portion examines the impact of domestic politics, gender politics and geopolitics on the postwar 'human rights revolution'.


Academic unit History
Unit code HSTY2616
Unit name The Human Rights Revolution
Session, year
Semester 1, 2020
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

12 Junior credit points in History or Ancient History or Asian Studies
Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Marco Duranti,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Participation Participation
15% - n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO5
Assignment Take home exam
1500 words take home exam
30% Formal exam period
Due date: 09 Jun 2020 at 23:59

Closing date: 10 Feb 2020
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3
Assignment Essay draft
Essay draft
15% Week 06
Due date: 02 Apr 2020 at 10:51

Closing date: 02 Apr 2020
Outcomes assessed: LO7 LO8
Assignment Final research essay
Final research essay
40% Week 12
Due date: 21 May 2020 at 10:57
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO6 LO7 LO8

Attendance is required at lectures and tutorials.

Assessment criteria




You will be required to submit via TurnItIn both an essay draft and a final essay on one of the topics found in the list of essay questions (found at the end of this unit outline) – or your own original topic (requires unit coordinator approval). The length of your essay must be within 10% of the word count either way. Citations in footnotes and the bibliography are not included in the word count.


NOTE: When you submit your work via TurnItIn, you will receive an email receipt. You must keep this receipt as proof of your submission. No hardcopies will be accepted.


You must attach a bibliography to both your essay draft and final essay. Review the Essay Presentation Guide, which explains when and how to cite your sources, as well as the Essay Writing Guide. Remember to include references to specific page numbers from your sources in your footnotes. We expect a substantial bibliography that lists primary and secondary sources you have actually used. 


How many sources should you include? As a rule of thumb, we expect you to draw on at least ten items (books, chapters from edited books, scholarly articles). This is a major research essay. It stands to reason that in order to construct your essay draft you need to have completed quite a lot of research. The depth and extent of your research is what you are being graded on, in addition to the viability and originality of your project. If you list only a small handful of works (say four or five), we will conclude that you have done minimal research and grade you accordingly. Use your common sense. Six relevant citations is a bare minimum, while at least ten is advisable. Note, however, that the most critical thing we are looking for is not the quantity of your citations but your ability to select appropriate resources. Aim to cite reputable scholarly sources, that is, those published by university presses or in academic journals. To help focus your research, you should conduct library catalogue and database searches. Consult the books located in Fisher 2 hour loan under Unit of Study in the catalogue. Links to these are provided on Blackboard. Regard Internet sources with skepticism, unless these are reliable transcripts of primary sources. 


How many primary and secondary sources should you cite? That depends on the nature of your project. Some projects will be heavily dependent on primary source material. Others might be more historiographical or conceptual. Either type of project is fine. Ultimately, though, you will need to read as much as necessary for you to answer the question to your satisfaction. Focus on published sources (scholarly books and articles). Regard internet sources with scepticism unless you are assured of the reliability of the information. You will need to refine your expertise in using the library catalogue, especially regarding database searches for scholarly articles. Do not rely on or The promiscuous use of internet sources will reflect badly on your essay.


In this essaywe expect you to show us (and yourself) what you have learned in lectures and tutorials, not just what you have learned over the course of your own research. We expect you to not just describe material from your sources, but to analyse and critically engage with this material. You should put forward your own original argument in your introduction and then compare it to arguments made by other scholars working on your topic (historiography). Make sure to avoid vagueness at all costs and provide as many specifics as possible throughout the essay, whether this be in your descriptions, analyses or argumentation. This tells us that you have read your sources carefully and critically.






Your essay draft should be written in the same format as your essay. State the research question you are addressing and argument you are making (thesis statement) clearly in your introduction. Always try to be as precise as possible in your argumentation, presentation of evidence and analysis, avoiding vagueness at all costs. Address as much as possible the questions and themes we have been discussing in lectures and tutorials in relation to the phenomenon you are investigating.


The essay draft is not an outline or a proposal. You should write your paragraphs in complete sentences with citations in footnotes just as you would a standard history essay. Do not use bullet points. Do not just tell the reader what you are going do in your essay – instead, go ahead and starting writing the essay itself. You can think of the essay draft as half of your final essay or a condensed version of your final essay. In your introduction, put forward a broad tentative argument and then tell the reader which areas will be the focus of your draft. In your conclusion, tell the reader what additional topics and sources will be included in your final essay. 


The point of the essay draft is to convince a grader that you have a viable and interesting approach to a question. Graders are unlikely to know much about the subject you are discussing, or to have read the books that you are citing. You should thus explain, succinctly but explicitly, the nature of your sources and why they are relevant for your project. You need to place your argument within the context of existing secondary literature relating to your topic. Your aim should be to do more than describe the focus of this literature. Rather, take the time to skim each work so that you can identify major debates in the field, points of agreement and contention among scholars, differences in approach and method, etc.


It stands to reason that in order to construct your essay draft you need to have completed quite a lot of research. You should still aim to include as many sources as possible in your draft, even if you won’t have as much space to elaborate on your source descriptions and analyses. A large component of the mark on your draft will be the amount of reading and research you have done. The depth and extent of your research is what you are being graded on, in addition to the viability and originality of your project. It does not matter if the arguments you present in your essay draft are significantly different than from those in your final essay. Nor does it matter if you decide to include different sources at a later date. Occasionally, students realize after completing a draft that, in fact, they want to be working on a different theme or topic altogether. This is all fine.


You can reuse as much of your essay draft for this unit as wish in your final essay for this unit, as long as you take into account the critiques and suggestions made on your essay draft. Do not recycle essays that you wrote in other units of study. However, you can write an essay on a theme related to another essay topic you have worked on, as long as you are drawing on new sources, make new arguments, avoiding duplicating passages and tailoring your essay to this unit of study. If unsure, consult the academic honesty resources online.


You will submit via Turnitin a 1,500 word take home exam answering a question that draws on material from the lectures, tutorials, and readings. The exam questions will be circulated in Week 12 and the final lecture in Week 13 will include an exam review.


The deadline is strict. We will not accept any exams after the due date unless you have received a Special Consideration or Disability Services extension.


You must submit this take-home exam via Turnitin. You are allowed a 10% margin on the word count. The length of the take home exam should be no less than 1,350 words and no more than 1,650 words.


Your take-home exam should be structured like a standard history essay, with an introduction in which you clearly state your answer, followed by arguments and examples drawn from the unit materials. The criteria for marking the exam are the same as those for an essay, including an evaluation of the originality of your argumentation and analysis. Present specific examples and make concrete points rather than fall back on vague generalities.


You must provide examples from a wide array of both lectures and tutorial readings. You are required at a minimum to cite examples from at least five lectures and five tutorial readingsDo not draw on materials other than those found in the lectures and tutorial readings. The point of the exam is for you to comment on the material we have discussed in lectures and tutorials, not to draw on knowledge that you have gained from elsewhere. A sophisticated response will draw comparisons between a variety of topics we have studied in this unit, take into consideration a broad spectrum of historical factors and sources, and consider possible objections and counter-examples.


Do not recycle your research essay. Your exam answer should not duplicate the work that you did for your essay project. This includes examples, arguments, and wording from your research essay. Choose a question that allows you to say something different than what you wrote in your essay. Remember that Turnitin checks all submissions for originality.


You should use footnotes in the exam when drawing on examples from the readings. You do not need to use all of the publication information for the readings as long as you specify the author of the reading in the footnote. You do not need to use footnotes for examples from the lectures. Your footnotes are not included in the word count. Do not include a bibliography.




Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

Participation mark will be adversely affected by absences from lectures and tutorials.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic honesty, academic dishonesty, and the resources available to all students.

The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic dishonesty or plagiarism seriously.

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of dishonesty, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance will be taken at both lectures and tutorials. Students who cannot attend lecture due to an unavoidable clash should email the unit coordinator at the start of the semester and explain the nature of the clash. 

Every week by Monday 10am students are expected to post a response to that week’s readings on Canvas on the discussion board for their tutorial group. There is no word minimum for discussion posts, but failure to submit a discussion post will impact negatively on the final participation mark.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings


HSTY2616: The Human Rights Revolution




Lecture topics

Tutorial topics (with readings)



No tutorials



The Humanitarian Response to the Armenian Genocide (Required Readings: Jones, Balakian, Tusan)


Minorities & Refugees

The Postwar Refugee Crisis (Required Readings: Salvatici, Cohen)


Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Conservative and Socialist Visions in Cold War Europe (Required Readings: Duranti, Betts)



Anti-Colonialism in Africa and Asia (Required Readings: Moyn, Burke)


Foreign Policy and Transnational Advocacy

Amnesty International and US Human Rights Foreign Policy in the 1970s (Required Readings: Keys, Simpson)


Transitional Justice

Truth Commissions in Latin America and South Africa (Required Readings: Grandin, Posel)





No lecture

No tutorials


Gender and Human Rights

Women’s Rights and International Organizations (Required Readings: Lake, Quataert)


Indigenous Rights 

Indigenous Rights and Land Rights (Readings: Johnson, Davis)


Sexuality and Human Rights

Race, Religion, and LGBTIQ+ Rights (Readings: Mumford, Cheney)


New Digital Tools: Text and Data Mining

A Digital History of LGBTIQ+ Rights in the US Media 


Conclusion and Exam Review

A Digital History of Refugee Rights and Indigenous Rights in the Australian Media



Week 1: No tutorials



Paul Gordon Lauren, The Evolution of International Human Rights, Chapters 1 and 2


Week 2: The Humanitarian Response to the Armenian Genocide


Required Readings

Adam Jones, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, Chapter 4 : The Ottoman Destruction of Christian Minorities, pp. 149-178.


Michelle Tusan, ‘“Crimes Against Humanity”: Human Rights, the British Empire, and the Origins of the Response to the Armenian Genocide’, American Historical Review 119, no. 1 (2014): 47–77.


Peter Balakian, “Photography, Visual Culture, and the Armenian Genocide,” in Heide Fehrenbach and Davide Rodogno, eds., Humanitarian Photography: A History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 89-114.



Paul Gordon Lauren, The Evolution of International Human Rights, Chapters 3 and 4


Online Primary Sources

1945 Nuremberg Charter (Charter of the International Military Tribunal)

1948 UN Genocide Convention (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide)


Week 3: The Postwar Refugee Crisis


Required Readings

Daniel Cohen, In War’s Wake: Europe’s Displaced Persons in the Postwar Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), Chapter 2 (‘Who is a Refugee?’), pages 35-57.


Silvia Salvatici, “Sights of Benevolence: UNRRA’s Recipients Portrayed” in Heide Fehrenbach and Davide Rodogno, eds., Humanitarian Photography: A History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 200-222.



Paul Gordon Lauren, The Evolution of International Human Rights, Chapters 5 and 6


Online Primary Sources

1945 UN Charter: Preamble, Article 1, Article 2, UN Trusteeships

United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration

1951 Refugee Convention


Week 4: Conservative and Socialist Visions in Cold War Europe


Required Readings

Marco Duranti, The Conservative Human Rights Revolution: European Identity, Transnational Politics, and the Origins of the European Convention (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), Chapter 10 (Human Rights and Conservative Politics), 361-384.


Paul Betts, ‘Socialism, Social Rights, and Human Rights: The Case of East Germany’, Humanity 3, no. 3 (Winter 2012): 404-26.



Paul Gordon Lauren, The Evolution of International Human Rights, Chapters 7 and 8


Online Primary Sources

1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms)

1952 First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights


Week 5: Anti-Colonialism in Africa and Asia 


Required Readings

Samuel Moyn, Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), Chapter 3 (‘Why Anticolonialism Wasn’t a Human Rights Movement’), 84-119. 


Roland Burke, Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), Chapter 2, 33-58.


Online Primary Sources

1955 Statement of the Bandung Conference

1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples

1963 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination


Week 6: Amnesty International and US Human Rights Foreign Policy in the 1970s


Required Readings

Barbara Keys, ‘Anti-Torture Politics: Amnesty International, the Greek Junta, and the Origins of the Human Rights ‘Boom’ in the United States’, in Akira Iriye, Petra Goedde and William I. Hitchcock, eds, The Human Rights Revolution: An International History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 201–222.


Bradley R. Simpson, ‘Denying the “First Right”: The United States, Indonesia, and the Ranking of Human Rights by the Carter Administration, 1976–1980’, The International History Review 31, no. 4 (2009): 798–826.


Online Primary Sources

1961 ‘The Forgotten Prisoners’ by Peter Benenson (founder of Amnesty International)

1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

1975 Helsinki Final Act


Week 7: Truth Commissions in Latin America and South Africa


Required Readings

Greg Grandin, ‘The Instruction of Great Catastrophe: Truth Commissions, National History, and State Formation in Argentina, Chile and Guatemala’, The American Historical Review 110, no. 1 (2005): 46–67.


Deborah Posel, ‘History as Confession: The Case of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, Public Culture 20, no. 1 (2008): 119–141.


Online Primary Sources

1948 American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man

1984 CONADEP Report (National Commission on Disappearance of Persons, Argentina)

1987 UN Convention Against Torture

1995 Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act (South African Parliament)

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Final Report (Summary)


Week 8: No lectures or tutorials


Week 9: Women’s Rights and International Organizations


Required Readings

Marilyn Lake, ‘From Self-Determination via Protection to Equality via Non-Discrimination:

Defining Women’s Rights at the League of Nations and the United Nations’, in Patricia

Grimshaw, Katie Holmes and Marilyn Lake, eds., Women’s Rights and Human Rights: International Historical Perspectives (Palgrave, 2001), 254-71


Jean H. Quataert, ‘The Gender Factor Since the 1970s: Universality and the Private Sphere’, chapter in her Advocating Dignity: Human Rights Mobilizations in Global Politics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 149–181.


Online Primary Sources

1967 Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 

1994 International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (Cairo)

1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 


Week 10: Indigenous Rights and Land Rights


Required Readings

Miranda Johnson, “Sacred Claims and the Politics of Indigeneity in Australia,” Journal of Religious and Political Practice, Vol. 4, No. 1: 78-92.


Megan Davis, “Indigenous Struggles in Standard Setting: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Melbourne Journal of International Law 2008, Vol. 9: 439-471.


Online Primary Sources

1981 African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart


Week 11: Race, Religion, and LGBTIQ+ Rights 


Required Readings

Kevin J. Mumford, "The Trouble with Gay Rights: Race and the Politics of Sexual Orientation in Philadelphia, 1969-1982," Journal of American History 98, no. 1 (June 2011): 49-72.


Kristen Cheney, "Locating Neocolonialism, 'Tradition,' and Human Rights in Uganda's 'Gay Death Penalty'," African Studies R­­­eview 55, no. 2 (September 2012): 77-95.


Online primary sources

2016 UN Human Rights Council Resolution on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity 


ILGA (International Lesbian Gay Trans and Intersex Association) State Sponsored Homophobia Report 


European Court of Human Rights ‘Sexual Orientation Issues’ Factsheet


Week 12: A Digital History of LGTBIQ+ Rights in the US Media


We will make use of the digital tools available at the ProQuest Text and Data Mining website (


Week 13: A Digital History of Indigenous Rights and Refugee Rights in the Australian Media


We will make use of the digital tools available at the ProQuest Text and Data Mining website (



Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University’s graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. A historical perspective on contemporary debates in the wider field of human rights scholarship, including over whether human rights are a Western imperial project, whether some categories of rights should take precedence over others, and the conflicting political uses and abuses of human rights
  • LO2. Consideration of the cross-cultural dimensions of human rights through a comparison of their genesis across time and space
  • LO3. Identification of problems with human rights and humanitarian practices in history so as to improve their implementation in the present
  • LO4. Historically informed dialogue with scholars and fellow students on controversies over the human rights of diverse social groups in Australia today
  • LO5. Application of new digital tools such as Text and Data Mining to human rights research
  • LO6. Critical appreciation of new interdisciplinary approaches to human rights that integrate scholarship in fields such as imperial, transnational, and gender history with critical theory, cultural studies, and gender studies
  • LO7. Proficiency in applying these methodologies in a research project of your ¿design
  • LO8. Improved writing abilities and independent research skills resulting from the completion of a research essay on a topic of your choice

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
Modifications to the digital tools portion of the unit have been made in response to student feedback.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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