This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Never Again! East German National Front election poster 1958.
Never Again! East German National Front election poster 1958.

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From Krushchev’s 1956 charm offensive to democracy in East Germany, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

GERMAN ZEPPELIN LOST ABOVE FRENCH TERRITORY, 1917, BY ALBERT MOREAU CREDIT: ECPAD/ FRANCE/ ALBERT MOREAU. 'The Great War as Never Seen Before', Telegraph.
GERMAN ZEPPELIN LOST ABOVE FRENCH TERRITORY, 1917, BY ALBERT MOREAU CREDIT: ECPAD/ FRANCE/ ALBERT MOREAU. From ‘The Great War as Never Seen Before‘, Telegraph.

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From the imperialism of time zones to remembering the Alamo in Japan, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

The Non-Western Origins of Human Rights in East Germany

Stamp commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The tree and globe represent the right to life.
Stamp commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The tree and globe represent the right to life.

David Spreen
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Cross-Posted from Dissertation Reviews

A review of Between dictatorship and dissent: Ideology, legitimacy, and human rights in East Germany, 1945-1990, by Ned Richardson-Little.

[Editor’s note: Dr. Richardson-Little is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Exeter. His dissertation was awarded the Fritz Stern Prize by the German Historical Institute.]

Ned Richardson-Little’s well-argued and well-researched dissertation challenges the idea that human rights gained importance in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) only after the signing of the Helsinki accords in 1975 – in other words, that the language of human rights was a gift from the West. The problem with this narrative is that it cannot explain why the Socialist Unity Party (SED) signed a document that was so obviously contrary to its own interests. Richardson-Little’s dissertation traces the evolution of the SED’s human rights policies through several stages between 1945 and the 1980s and shows how human rights rhetoric became mobilized by East German citizens as early as 1968. Rather than presenting a narrative of liberal triumphalism from Helsinki to 1989, he demonstrates that human rights discourses existed in the GDR before the 1970s while insisting that these discourses were unstable and contested. Continue reading “The Non-Western Origins of Human Rights in East Germany”

Writing Human Rights into the History of State Socialism

Ned Richardson-Little
Associate Research Fellow, University of Exeter

One of a number of East German postage stamps commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The hammer and anvil represent the right to work.
One of a number of East German postage stamps commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The hammer and anvil represent the right to work.

The collapse of the Communist Bloc in 1989-1991 is viewed as one of the great triumphs of the human rights movement. But this ignores how socialist elites of the Eastern Bloc viewed themselves: not as the villains in the story of human rights, but as the champions. Continue reading “Writing Human Rights into the History of State Socialism”