Author Archives: Jan Eckel

About Jan Eckel

Associate professor of modern and contemporary history at the University of Freiburg. His first two books, Hans Rothfels: Eine intellektuelle Biographie im 20. Jahrhundert (Wallstein, 2005) and Geist der Zeit: Deutsche Geisteswissenschaften seit 1870 (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008), examine the interdependence of political experiences, intellectual conceptions, and academic institutions in German historiography and the humanities during the long twentieth century. He is currently working on a book exploring the history of international human rights politics during the second half of the twentieth century. Among his publications on the topic are "Utopie der Moral, Kalkül der Macht: Menschenrechte in der globalen Politik nach 1945," Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 49 (2009), and a volume (co-edited with Samuel Moyn) entitled The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s (Pennsylvania, 2014).

The International League for the Rights of Man, Amnesty International, and the Changing Fate of Human Rights Activism from the 1940s through the 1970s

This article explores the trajectory of international human rights organizations between the 1940s and the 1970s. Providing detailed case studies of the International League for the Rights of Man and Amnesty International, it argues that the field of human rights NGOs underwent profound changes during this period. The League never moved beyond a marginal role because of its weak institutional structures, its focus on the United Nations, and because its work placed it at odds with the political scene in the U.S. Amnesty, by contrast, reinvented the techniques of human rights advocacy and saw its endeavors fuelled by a generation of activists eager to transcend earlier forms of civil protest. In the process, human rights NGOs began to have a much larger impact on international relations. This happened only in the 1970s, however, and produced new political dilemmas and contradictions.