Lynn Hunt, the renowned professor of modern European history, has recently argued that the concept of human rights, in its fully developed form, was first articulated in the second half of the eighteenth century.1 While this assertion may be correct, it also raises the question as to how this concept developed. What previous ideas did the concept of human rights develop from, and where, when, and by whom were those earlier ideas first expressed? If the complex notion of human rights proclaimed in the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789) did not come out of nowhere, then it is worth asking what ideas and values provided the basis for that eighteenth-century concept. This is not merely an academic question. If, as an ancient Greek proverb tells us, “the beginning is more than half the whole” (quoted by Plato...

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