Nordic Histories of Human Rights  book cover
1st Edition

Nordic Histories of Human Rights

ISBN 9780367517625
Published July 8, 2020 by Routledge
146 Pages

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Book Description

This book explores the history of Nordic human rights politics and practices from the 1930s to present day. The authors use previously unexplored archival materials to bring to light how a broad range of Nordic actors have engaged with international human rights globally and at a European level and how these norms have been taken up and interpreted in the region.

Do the Nordic countries warrant the label ‘global good Samaritans’ in human rights promotion? Is the Nordic welfare state a close to perfect realisation of human rights norms? Or do Nordic international and domestic human rights policies constitute a peculiar ‘Nordic human rights paradox’ where norms are supported internationally while not being implemented at home? Are the ideals of the national welfare state and universal human rights compatible? In this book, the authors take issue with previous scholarship and argue for the need for careful historical investigations into how a broad range of Nordic actors have contributed to creating international human rights. This history is much more varied than what was previously assumed. The lack of prior interest in the region means there are several promising avenues for historical investigations of both the Nordic countries in human rights history and the role of human rights in the history of the region.

The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of the journal, Nordic Journal of Human Rights.

Table of Contents

1. Histories of Human Rights in the Nordic Countries

Hanne Hagtvedt Vik, Steven LB Jensen, Linde Lindkvist and Johan Strang

2. Scandinavian Legal Realism and Human Rights: Axel Hägerström, Alf Ross and the Persistent Attack on Natural Law

Johan Strang

3. Human Rights in Interwar Finland

Ainur Elmgren

4. From Global Ambition to Local Reality: Initiatives for the Dissemination of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Norway, 1948–1952

Kjersti Brathagen

5. Evolving Internationalism: Denmark and Human Rights Politics, 1948–1968

Steven LB Jensen

6. International Arenas and Domestic Institution Formation: The Impact of the UN Women’s Conferences in Denmark, 1975–1985

Kristine Kjærsgaard

7. Rights for the World’s Children: Rädda Barnen and the Making of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Linde Lindkvist

8. Deploying the Engagement Policy: The Significance of Legal Dualism in Norway’s Support for Human Rights Treaties from the late 1970s

Hanne Hagtvedt Vik and Skage Alexander Østberg

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Hanne Hagtvedt Vik is Professor of International History at the University of Oslo, Norway. Her work on indigenous internationalism and Sami, Nordic and US human rights history have appeared in Journal of Global History, International History Review and Nordic Journal of Human Rights. She is the Director of the Norwegian Research School in History.

Steven L. B. Jensen is Senior Researcher at The Danish Institute for Human Rights, Denmark. He is the author of the prize-winning book The Making of International Human Rights. The 1960s, Decolonization and the Reconstruction of Global Values (2016). His recent publications include Histories of Global Inequality: New Perspectives (2019).

Linde Lindkvist is PhD and Senior Lecturer in human rights studies at the School of Human Rights, University College Stockholm, Sweden. He is the author of Religious Freedom and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2017). His ongoing project concerns the origins of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Johan Strang is Academy of Finland Research Fellow and Associate Professor in Nordic Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland. He has a broad interest in the intellectual and political history of the Nordic region and his recent publications include the edited volumes Nordic Cooperation: A European Region in Transition (2016) and Decentering European Intellectual Space (2018).


 "This innovative volume of high-quality essays makes an important contribution to Nordic history, as well as providing a model for the writing of the history of human rights as a complex phenomenon defined by the national context."

Martin Conway, Professor of Modern European History, University of Oxford


"The essays in this volume represent exactly what human rights as an interdisciplinary research field needs: thorough and initiated empirical studies of particular political contexts and developments. Only with this kind of research can the simplification of the grand narratives be challenged and human rights theory be provided with a solid ground for engagement with real politics."

Lena Halldenius, Professor of Human Rights Studies, Lund University, Sweden.