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Socio-Economic Rights in History


Working with other colleagues in the History Dept at Warwick (including the Centre for the History of Medicine and the European History Research Centre), Charles Walton and Claudia Stein are making contact with academics from a range of disciplines and based in institutions across Europe and the US in order to explore the history of socioeconomic rights – rights to health, subsistence, work, housing and education. These rights, which have received considerably less attention than civil and political rights, have recently come into focus among scholars and NGOs. Often considered to be ‘second generation rights’, that is, as twentieth-century additions to ‘core’ civil and political rights stretching back to the Enlightenment, notions of socioeconomic rights stretch back, in fact, to the Enlightenment as well. Socioeconomic rights exploded into politics during the French Revolution. Since then, however, their legitimacy has been contested. What accounts for their relatively greater historical precariousness among the panoply of rights?

In May 2015, the Institute of Advanced Studies at Warwick hosted Visiting Fellow Samuel Moyn, professor of law and history at Harvard University, who has written several books in the fields of European intellectual history and human rights history, including The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Harvard University Press, 2010). Among other activities, Professor Moyn took part in a workshop on 'Writing the History of Socio-Economic Rights', organised by Charles Walton (Eighteenth Century Centre) and Claudia Stein (Centre for the History of Medicine). Please see the Events page for further details.

In the summer of 2015, this work received Leverhulme funding in order to formalise, expand and develop the network and its activities. For full details of the project, now hosted by the Global History & Culture Centre, please click here.

Recent publications growing out of this network include:

Charles Walton (ed.), 'Social Rights in French History', French History (Dec 2019)

Steven Jensen and Charles Walton (eds.), Social Rights and the Politics of Obligation (Cambridge University Press, 2022)