c   c
Human Right Course
Home Site map     Mail us Print PolishNorwegian


What are human rights?
The history of human rights
In the really old days..
the middle class and the development of cicil and political rights
the working class and the development of economic, social and cultural rights
World war II and the founding of the UN
Universial declartion of human rights
Human rights in our time
What right do we have?
The protection of Human Rights
Human rights in everyday life
Human Rights

Did you know

Did you know that human rights are a result of the struggles of individual people and groups throughout history to improve their living conditions?




International human rights saw the light of day in the UN in 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. This was the first time rights were declared that applied to everyone in the world. However, the history of human rights is much older.

Human rights are a result of the struggles of individual people and groups throughout history to improve their own and their fellow human beings’ living conditions. People have manned barricades and fought against arbitrary and poor treatment by rulers. Injustice has sparked off many popular uprisings and revolutions throughout history, because people have not been willing to accept being treated badly by the people in power. People have slowly but surely improved their rights. These struggles have often been based on the idea that we are basically pretty alike and that we all share the same human needs.

In this historical review we have chosen to start in the distant past when philosophers first developed a view of people that claimed that everyone was endowed with the faculties of reason and conscience, and that therefore there had to be “natural laws” that applied to everyone. After this we will look at the stratified social system in the Middle Ages when the individual was of little importance, before moving on to the Renaissance when the individual was placed centre stage in art, literature and philosophy. The 1700s saw the formulation of human rights in written documents in Great Britain, France and America. In these states the authorities undertook to grant the people certain human rights. Other states followed suit and over time many countries incorporated human rights into their laws. However, human rights were not yet universal, i.e. they did not apply to everyone on the planet. In order to understand this development we have to look at World War II and the establishment of a worldwide organisation, the UN. Since 1948 this has developed into a global human rights system.



Antiquity is the period between 700 BC and 500 AC. Europe was dominated by the Greeks and Romans, two peoples who based their economies on slavery. However, ancient Greece is also called the “cradle of democracy” and it was during this time that the philosophy of human rights was born.

In the 1600s-1700s many countries experienced conflicts relating to their form of government. Many kings wanted to be absolute rulers. The nobility was against this because they were afraid of having less influence. Merchants became more important to economies and wanted power equal to their importance. Many of them wanted republics.


Fact box

On 17 th May 1814 the national assembly at Eidsvoll adopted the Norwegian Constitution. This was based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people and divided power between the legislature (parliament), the executive (the government) and the judiciary (the courts). The Constitution gave a quarter of the country’s male population over the age of 25 the right to vote in parliamentary elections. It would take almost 100 years before women gained the right to vote!

c 2005 © Den Norske Helsingforskomiteen DEN NORSKE HELSINGFORSKOMITÉ Aktive FredsreiserAKTIVE FREDSREISER - TRAVEL FOR PEACE AS c