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The Spirit of the Rights

This book project considers the impact that French Enlightenment authors had on the discourses of natural right theory, and how their innovations paved the way for the revolutionary declarations at the end of the century. While focusing mostly on French "rights talk," I also compare it with the language and logic found in the American state declarations, as well as with the later formulations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An early version of this research ("Enlightenment Rights Talk") recently appeared in the Journal of Modern History; a more recent piece is forthcoming in Humanity ("Is There a 'Modern' Natural Law Theory? Notes on the History of Human Rights")


France, England, United States

Principal Investigator:

Dan Edelstein

Current Research Interests: 
My current research lies in the fields of intellectual history, political thought, and digital humanities (DH). I'm writing a book that explores the history of rights from the Wars of Religion to the Age of Revolutions ("The Spirit of the Rights"); a second book on the history and theory of permanent revolution ("On Permanent Revolution"); and I continue to work on a number of DH projects, including Mapping the Republic of Letters (for which I am a co-PI), and Writing Rights, a study of the drafts and debates leading up to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the...
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