The Project

Explaining the evolution of human rights is a topic of great interest in current scholarly discussion. However, we still do not have an adequate account of its origin and early development. The content, nature and justification of human rights are also debated today.

Our project will contribute to these ongoing debates from a novel perspective. We aim to understand:
(1) how human rights language in its early history emerged and was rooted in different kinds of psychological assumptions of human needs and instincts.
(2) Focusing especially on the rights of the destitute poor, widows, slaves, infidels, and indigenous people the project also pays attention to how these rights were justified in medieval and early modern policy.

Firmly rooted in historical contexts and written responses to them between the years 1200–1600, the project recreates natural rights from a perspective that brings new insights into the early evolution of natural rights. The inquiry will also offer conceptual tools for contemporary human rights claims which address the common needs and aspirations of human beings.

The project is funded by the Academy of Finland, 01.09.2012 – 31.08.2015.