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Seminar Reading: Week 7

Inventing Human Rights

For a Powerpoint overview of the course of the early French Revolution, including its 'liberal' and 'radical' phases (1789-1792 and 1792-1794 respectively), please click hereLink opens in a new window.

Core primary reading

abbé Sieyès, 'What is the Third Estate?', in Mason and Rizzo, FRDC, pp. 51-55

The below are found in Mason & Rizzo, FRDC

* Declarations of Rights

1789 (doc. 21)

1793 (doc. 53)

1795 (doc. 71)

* Olympe de Gouges, ‘Declaration of the Rights of Women’ (doc. 24)


Core secondary reading

Dan Edelstein, On the Spirit of Rights (2019), chapter 7, pp. 172-193.

Charles Walton, 'Who Pays? Social Rights and the French Revolution', in S. Jensen and C. Walton (eds.), Social Rights and the Politics of Obligation in History (2022), chapter 4, pp. 63-81.


Further primary reading


Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1791)

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)


Further secondary reading


  • K. Baker, ‘The Idea of a Declaration of RightsLink opens in a new window’, in D. Van Kley (ed.), The French Idea of Freedom: The Old Regime and The Declaration of the Rights of 1789 (1994), 154-196.
  • L. Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History (2006) [We will read this for the 'Emotions' week].
  • G. Bossenga, ‘Rights and Citizens in the Old Regime’, French Historical Studies 20: 2 (1997), pp. 217-243.
  • M. Fitzsimmons, ‘The Principles of 1789’ in P. McPhee (ed.), A Companion to the French Revolution (2013), 75-90.
  • L. Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution & Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 (2006), ch. 1 ‘Insurrection and the Language of Rights’, pp. 1-30.
  • Marcel Gauchet, ‘Rights of Man’ in François Furet and Mona Ozouf (eds.), Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (Harvard: 1989). For those who read French, see his La Révolution des droits de l’homme (Gallimard, 1989).
  • Wasserstrom et al (eds.), Human Rights in Revolution (Lantham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007).
  • Friedrich von Gentz, The origin and principles of the American Revolution, compared with the origin and principles of the French Revolution. Translated from the German of ... by an American gentleman (1800) [available through library’s database: Historical Texts (JISC)]
  • Thomas Paine, Rights of Man; widely available online.For a good critical edition, see the one edited by Mark Philp (Oxford, 2009).
  • Jeremy Bentham, ‘Nonsense Upon Stilts…’ in Philip Schofield et. al (ed.), Rights, Representation and Reform: 'Nonsense Upon Stilts' and Other Writings on the French Revolution (New York: OUP, 2002), 317-402.
  • Dale Van Kley (ed.), The French Idea of Freedom The Old Regime and the Declaration of the Rights of 1789 (Stanford: 1994).
  • David A. Bell, The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It (Boston, 2007).
  • Jeremy Carroza, ‘From Conquest to Constitutions: Retrieving a Latin American Tradition of the Idea of Human Rights’, Human Rights Quarterly no. 25 (2003), 281-313.
  • Carla Hesse, The Other Enlightenment: How French Women Became Modern (Princeton: 2000).
  • Joan B. Landes, Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution (Cornell, 1988).
  • Olwen Hufton, Women and the Limits of Citizenship in the French Revolution (Toronto: 1999).
  • Jean-Pierre Gross, Fair Shares for All: Jacobin Egalitarianism in Practice (Cambridge, 1997).
  • Dan Edelstein, The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution (Chicago, 2008).
  • Dan Edelstein, On the Spirit of Rights (Chicago, 2019)
  • Mark Philp, Thomas Paine (Oxford, 2007)
  • Joannes Innes and Mark Philp (eds.), Re-imagining Democracy in the Age of Revolutions: America, France, Britain, Ireland 1750-1850 (Oxford, 2013).
  • W. Sewell, A Rhetoric of Bourgeois Revolution: The abbé Sieyès and What is the Third Estate? (1994), esp. ch. 5 ‘What is a Citizen?: The Denial of Political Equality’
  • Charles Walton, Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech (Oxford, 2009).
  • Charles Walton, 'Why the Neglect? Social Rights and French Revolutionary Historiography', French History 33: 4 (Dec 2019), 1-17.
  • Jeremy D. Popkin, You Are All Free: The Haitian Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery (Cambridge, 2010). Compare this interpretation of slave abolition with L. Dubois’s (above).
  • Philipp Ziesche, Cosmopolitan Patriotis: Americans in Paris in the Age of Revolution (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010), especially chapter 1, which corresponds to the article below as well:
  • Philipp Ziesche, 'Exporting American Revolutions: Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Jefferson, and the National Struggle for Universal Rights in Revolutionary France', Journal of the Early Republic, vol. 26 (Fall 2006), 419-447 (same as Chapter 1 in above book).