History of Human Rights Will Be the Topic of Noted Historian Lynn Hunt in the Charles Edmondson Historical Lectures at Baylor April 4 and 5

April 2, 2016
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WACO, Texas (April 4, 2016) – "The History of Human Rights," a lecture series by prominent historian Lynn Hunt, Ph.D., will be presented at the 38th Charles Edmondson Historical Lectures at Baylor Monday, April 4, and Tuesday, April 5.

"In our global society, issues that transcend regions are sometimes the most difficult to define, yet they are often the most critical to address," said Katie Jarvis, Ph.D., assistant professor of history. "Human rights as a concept has become a global concern with universalist overtones, yet Lynn Hunt reminds us that the idea of 'human rights' has a history of its own."

Hunt is Distinguished Research Professor and Eugen Weber Endowed Chair in modern European history at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"Lynn Hunt shows us how, over the course of several centuries, individuals came to came to 'invent' human rights by reimaging social relationships in specific cultural contexts," Jarvis said. "She shows us how the idea of human rights first became possible through emphatic mediums and historical circumstances and then demonstrates how human rights became such a powerful force in our modern world."

The first lecture — "Novels, Empathy, and the Origins of Human Rights" — will be held at 3:30 p.m. April 4. Presiding will be Kimberly Kellison, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of history in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, with the introduction by Katie Jarvis, Ph.D., assistant professor of history.

The second lecture —"The History of Human Dignity" — will be held at 3:30 p.m. April 5, with Rufus Spain, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of History, presiding.

"Both lectures fit under the umbrella of 'The History of Human Rights,' but approach the topic from different perspectives," said Jarvis. "Lynn Hunt’s first lecture, 'Novels, Empathy, and the Origins of Human Rights,' will give a close look at how the rise of the novel encouraged people to become sympathetic with characters different from themselves and this imagined sympathy helped foster notions of empathy essential for a transcendent notion of human rights. 'The History of Human Dignity' will take a longer perspective on how the notion of human rights developed across historical time periods ranging from the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the United Nation’s definition of human rights in our modern era."

Both lectures are free and open to the public and will be in Morrison Hall, Room 100, 1410 S. Fifth St.

Born in Panama and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, Hunt earned her B.A. from Carleton College (1967) and her M.A. (1968) and Ph.D. (1973) from Stanford University. Before coming to UCLA, she taught at the University of Pennsylvania (1987-1998) and the University of California, Berkeley (1974-1987).

She was the 2002-2003 president of the American Historical Association and has held the Guggenheim Fellowship and two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships. She also was admitted to the prestigious British Academy under the rubric of Corresponding Fellow.

Hunt's current research includes a study of French revolutionary graphic arts and revolutionary finances.

Her most recent books examine the origins of human rights in the 18th century, "Inventing Human Rights" (2007); the question of time and history writing, "Measuring Time: Making History" (2008); early 18th-century views of the world's religions, "The Book that Changed Europe" (with M. Jacob and W. Mijnhardt, 2010); and "Writing History in the Global Era." She also has written extensively on the French Revolution and historical method and epistemology.

Hunt co-authored a western civilization textbook, "The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures" (fourth edition); and with Jack Censer co-authored a textbook and website on the French Revolution. Her books have been translated into French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Polish and Czech.

The Charles Edmondson Historical Lectures, sponsored by the department of history in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, are made possible by an endowment established by Dr. E. Bud Edmondson of Longview, Texas. The lectures honor his father, Charles S.B. Edmondson.

by Jenna Press, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines.

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