By conspiring against and then depriving King James
II of the throne of England, Parliament, through the
English Bill of Rights, firmly established
the principle of a limited monarchy with Parliament holding ultimate political power. The appointment of William and Mary
as king and queen of England was accompanied by a declaration of rights which itemized
the alleged criminal acts of King James II and indicated the rights of the peoples'
representatives. Parliament later passed a number of laws which guaranteed
The Second Continental Congress adopted the
Declaration of Independence of the
Thirteen Colonies, 4 July 1776, after much debate over the form that the
relationship between the North American colonies and the United Kingdom should
take. Relations had been deteriorating for some years over a perceived lack
of representation for colonial grievances in Parliament. The Declaration
signaled the formal start of the war for independence.
The Declaration of
the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) was one of the first
and most important political documents of the French Revolution. The French National
Assembly, having just overthrown the Ancien Régime, decided to secure
the revolution with a declaration of principles. The Declaration borrowed
heavily on the examples of the English Bill of Rights and the statements
of rights in the American state constitutions, which had been translated
into French with considerable influence. The Declaration is a brief, but
powerful, statement of the central themes of the revolution: Liberté,
Egalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood).
There were many reasons for the outbreak of
Romanticism at the turn of the
nineteenth century. For example, some artists and intellectuals had begun to feel uncomfortable
with the rationalist outlook of the Enlightenment--which had never completely
dominated--and turned to more emotional, spiritual releases in the arts and in politics.
The Romantics accused the philosophes of being narrowly logical, overly-optimistic,
and depriving man of supernatural or spiritual inspiration. In addition,
many held the Enlightenment responsible for the excesses of the French
revolution, thus the counter-revolt of Romanticism.
Charles John Huffam
Dickens (1812-1870) experienced family
privations as he grew up. He later became a reporter in London and began
to publish literary sketches in the early 1830s. At the end of 1837 the
Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club appeared in book form and sealed his
literary debut. Dickens published Hard Times in 1854 as an overt critique
of the impact that industrialization/urbanization was having on England.
The socialist movement, in a manner of
was a direct result of the Industrial Revolution that produced a
class. If there had been no industrialization, then there would
probably have been no socialist movement. One of the most famous,
and influential, explanations (and then critique)
of the industrialization process was The Communist Manifesto (1848), published
by Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich
Prussian King Frederick William
IV was succeeded by his brother, William I, as Regent (1858-61) and then
as King (1861-88). Aroused by the uncertain state of international affairs
in 1859, William sought to reform and enlarge the Prussian army. Liberals
in the Prussian Landtag, opposing the military build-up, claimed the legal
right to control expenditures, whereas the king, as head of the army, claimed
the right to institute military reforms and to require the necessary funds be appropriated.
A political deadlock arose for which the Prussian constitution had no provision. The
King considered abdication, but finally fell back upon Prince Otto von
Bismarck (1815-1898) to break the deadlock. Bismarck already had a reputation as a conservative,
an anti-parliamentarian, a nationalist, and a man of intelligence. A staunch
supporter of the king during the Revolution of 1848, he had served as Prussian
representative to the Frankfurt Diet (1851-59), as Ambassador to Russia
(1859-62), and to France (1862), in which capacities he had acquired a thorough
knowledge of the internal affairs of the Germanies as well as of the European
Achebe (1930-) was born in Nigeria
and attended University College in Ibadan. He published Things Fall Apart
in 1958 as a commentary upon the destruction of Ibo society at the hands
of Europeans. He has taught, and continues to teach, at schools in the United
States, such as the University of Massachusetts and Bard College. Take a moment and read the article by Peter Monaghan, "Coming Together: On the 50th anniversary of Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe Reflects on His Intentions and His Influence." (pdf version)
Remarque (1898-1970) fought in the
German army during World War I and was wounded many times. The publication
of All Quiet on the Western Front in 1929 brought him immediate fame, wealth
and notoriety. During the 1930s, a number of governments banned publication
of the book because of its anti-war theme. Remarque resided in the United
States during World War II, but returned to Switzerland after the war.
Soon after the seizure of power in October 1917,
the Bolsheviks passed a series of decrees, including important proclamations
on the land question and the war. This specific decree, the Declaration of the Rights
of the Russian People (28 October 1917), was intended to form the basis for
future Bolshevik treatment of the national minorities of the former Russian
Although it is thought of as having been "written"
by Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf is not
a book in the usual sense. Hitler never actually sat down and pecked at a
typewriter or wrote longhand, but instead dictated his random ideas to Rudolph Hess while
pacing around a prison cell in 1923-24. He later continued to work on the "book" at a local inn at Berchtesgarden.
The original title Hitler chose was "Four and a Half Years of Struggle against
Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice," but his Nazi publisher knew better and shortened
it to Mein Kampf (My Struggle or My Battle).
When the book was first released in 1925,
sold poorly. People had been hoping for a juicy autobiography or a
behind-the-scenes story of the Beer Hall Putsch. What they got were
pages of long, hard to follow sentences and wandering paragraphs
by a self-educated man. However, after Hitler became Chancellor of
millions of copies were sold. It was considered proper to give one to
high school graduates, or to celebrate any similar occasion. But few
ever read it cover to cover. Although it made him rich, Hitler would
express regret that he had published Mein Kampf, considering the extent of its
Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) served in
the Russian army during World War II and was arrested in 1945 for allegedly
making anti-Stalin remarks in a letter to a friend. After serving time in
the camps, he was released in 1953 but still sentenced to exile. Rehabilitation
occurred only in 1957, the year after Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech denouncing the crimes of the Stalin era.
After Solzhenitsyn received the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Soviet regime
expelled him from Russia in 1974.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
was adopted on 10 December 1948 by the General Assembly of the United
Nations, the culmination of a three-year process of sometimes
contentious debate to develop and issue a statement on human rights.
An initial version of a declaration had been introduced at the
very first meeting of the General Assembly, but the final version
required over three years of difficult negotiation. To pursue the
matter, the UN Economic and Social Council established the Commission
on Human Rights in June 1946 with Eleanor Roosevelt as the chairperson.
In June 1948, the Commission sent a draft resolution and report
to the Economic and Social Council. After further comment, the
Council then sent the draft to the General Assembly. Further
months of debate culminated on the evening of 10 December 1948, when the
Universal Declaration was adopted by a vote of forty-eight nations for,
eight abstained (the Soviet bloc, South Africa and Saudi Arabia) and
Although the Declaration does not have the force of international law,
it does establish international norms for governments to follow in
preserving the rights of citizens. See the home page for the Declaration of Rights. You might also wish to look at Questions and Answers about the Declaration; Peter Bailey's The Creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and some more background information.