Human Rights and Democracy as Ideas in History

Course description

The course provides an introduction to the concepts of human rights and democracy and how they have been interpreted and put to use in different eras and social contexts. The course covers both relevant historical sources and current research into the history of human rights and democracy. The course further addresses critical perspectives on human rights and democracy and how these concepts relate to one another as well as to neighboring concepts like discrimination, equality, justice, citizenship, as well as social and ecological sustainability.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course, the student shall be able to

Knowledge and understanding

  • distinguish central historical and present-day conceptions of human rights and democracy;
  • summarize and compare different interpretations of the history of human rights and democracy;

Competence and skills

  • deploy relevant tools from the fields of history and conceptual history to analyze relevant primary sources;
  • summarize and critically examine central theories of human rights and democracy and describe how they have evolved in relation to historical processes and events;
  • account and argue for complex issues in speech and writing;

Judgement and approach

  • reflect critically and independently on central theories and concepts within the field of inquiry;
  • analyze and assess information using scientific criteria.

The course literature may be subject to revision.

  • Cooper, Frederick, 2018. Citizenship, Inequality, and Difference: Historical Perspectives. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (200 s.)

  • Dijn, Annelien de, 2020. Freedom: An Unruly History. Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press . (432 s.)

  • Getachew, Adom, 2019. Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (271 s.)

  • Moyn, Samuel, 2018. Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press . (277 s.)

  • Stovall, Tyler, 2021. White Freedom: The Racial History of an Idea. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (436 s.)

Articles ca 500 pages

The schedule is available at the latest one month before the course starts. We do not recommend that you print the schedule as some changes may happen.

Open the Schedule

Course Coordinator

Emma Sundkvist

Acting Director of studies, Department of Human Rights and Democracy, PhD, adjunct teacher


A = Excellent, B = Very good, C = Good, D = Satisfactory, E = Sufficient, Fx = Insufficient, F = Insufficient

Examination Format

  • Papers

The applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree in human rights studies or another related field in social or political science, law or the humanities. Students with undergraduate degrees in the natural sciences, engineering or medicine may also be admitted subject to their ability to demonstrate a proficiency in human rights, for instance through professional or voluntary work or activity.

If English is not the applicant’s native language, his or her language proficiency is to be demonstrated by e.g. IELTS test, TOEFL test, Cambridge/Oxford test, a Bachelor’s degree from a study programme taught entirely in English, or a passing grade in English 6/English B from Swedish upper secondary school.

Selection: Higher education credits

  • Completion of a course requires a minimum of 80% attendance at lectures and 100% attendance at seminars/group work and other assignments. Absence beyond that can be compensated by supplementing assignment(s) if the instructor finds it possible. In case of an absence of 50% or more, the course is considered as interrupted, even if assignments have been completed.
  • Students have the opportunity to take the exam according to the original course syllabus within two years after the course. If there are special reasons, such a re-examination can also take place later. Normally, teaching is not given according to an older syllabus. The possibility of exemption shall be decided by the president or vice president.
  • If a student due to disability has a decision from the EHS on special pedagogical support, the examiner shall, if necessary, adapt the examination and conduct the examination in an alternative way.

Established by The College of Human Rights and Democracy at Enskilda Högskolan Stockholm on December 7, 2020.