• Offered by School of History
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject History
  • Areas of interest History, International Relations, Philosophy, Politics
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Kynan Gentry
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2016
    See Future Offerings

While notions of 'rights' have deep historical, societal, and cultural  roots, the rise of contemporary concern with human rights has taken place parallel to the emergence of the 'age of imperialism' and modern globalisation. Why is this the case? What is it about imperialism, colonialism, and globalisation that has resulted in the idea of universal, inalienable rights becoming a dominant moral language of our time? Did human rights serve as a 'civilizing' mask for colonialism, and how have decolonisation and the rights debate been linked?  

Exploring these and other questions, the course critically explores the rise of human rights over the last two-hundred years. Taking a thematic and chronological approach, the course explores themes such as the role of nineteenth-century humanitarianism and 'imperial benevolence' in advancing the rights of colonised peoples; and how threads such as the Cold War, Apartheid, and the ‘War on Terror’ have undermined them. We also examine the impacts of global movements such as anti-colonialism, civil, indigenous, women’s, and minority rights, and the rise of the modern human rights movement.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon Successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Identify the key moments, transnational phenomena, and international instruments in the establishment of the contemporary human rights regime.
  2. Critically analyse and assess the impact of historical globalisation on the emergence of ideas concerning 'rights' and the specific development of the contested concept of 'human rights'.
  3. Undertake historical research using primary and secondary sources and produce written pieces demonstrating historical analysis and argument;
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the frameworks of analysis used by transnational and globalisation histories;
  5. Design and execute a research project on connection between globalisation and human rights.

Indicative Assessment

***In-person delivery indicative assessment
  • Tutorial participation (10%) (LO 1,2,4)
  • Primary Document Exercise (1,000 words) (10%) (LO 1,2,3,4)
  • Review Exercise (1,000 words) (10%) (LO 1,2,3,4)
  • Research Essay (2,500 words) (35%) (LO 1,2,3,4,5)
  • Research Essay (2,500 words) (35%) (LO 1,2,3,4,5)

***Online delivery indicative assessment
  • Online forum participation (10%) (LO 1,2,4)
  • Online Exercise (1,000 words) (10%) (LO 1,2,3,4)
  • Online Exercise (1,000 words) (10%) (LO 1,2,3,4)
  • Research Essay (2,500 words) (35%) (LO 1,2,3,4,5)
  • Research Essay (2,500 words) (35%) (LO 1,2,3,4,5)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Two one-hour lectures and 1 hour of small-group discussion per week over 13 weeks. A further 7 hours of private study and completion of coursework assignments per week is expected (total workload of 130 hours over the semester).

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

  • Micheline Ishay, 'The History of Human Rights: from ancient times to the globalization era, University of California Press, 2008.
  • Aryer Neier, 'The International Human Rights Movement: A History', Princeton University Press, 2013.
  • Roland Burke, 'Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights', University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.

  • Bonny Ibhawoh, 'Rights, Liberties, and the Imperial World Order', in Imperialism and Human Rights: Colonial Discourses of Rights and Liberties in African History, pp. 29-54.
  • Will Kymlicka, ‘The Good, The Bad, and the Intolerable: Minority Group Rights,’ Dissent, Summer 1996, pp.22-30.
  • Cindy L. Holder and Jeff Corntassel, ‘Indigenous Peoples and Multicultural Citizenship: Bridging Collective and Individual Rights,’ Human Rights Quarterly 24 (2002), pp.126-151.
  • Sarah Richardson, Women, Philanthropy, and Imperialism in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain', in Helen Gilbert and Chris Tiffin (eds) Burden or Benefit?: Imperial Benevolence and its Legacies, pp. 90-102.

Assumed Knowledge

The course does not assume any prior knowledge of human rights.  



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $3054
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $4368
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
On Campus
3876 15 Feb 2016 26 Feb 2016 31 Mar 2016 27 May 2016 In Person N/A
4837 15 Feb 2016 26 Feb 2016 31 Mar 2016 27 May 2016 Online N/A

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