The Modern Human Rights System Essay

1147 Words Oct 19th, 2015 5 Pages
Although the modern human rights system was officially established with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948, the concept and discourse of rights have a much longer history of conception and contestation. Yet despite advances in recognizing the rights of some, there were always other humans who were excluded. Sometimes such exclusion from rights was explicit and intended; other times it was just taken for granted as the natural order of society and civilization. In particular, the emergence of the modern construction of race and racial slavery, the rise of modern colonialism and nationalism, and the struggle for women’s rights all reveal the contradictory nature of pre-1948 rights thought and progress. While slavery had probably existed throughout history, it posed particular ethical challenges to societies that were organized around rights or the rule of law. The colonization of the New World by the Spanish Empire and in particular rose pressing questions about the ethical treatment of its Native populations. While Bartolomé de Las Casas’s victorious argument in the 1550 Valladolid Debate was a strong and persuasive denunciation of the use of war and slavery against the Native peoples of Hispaniola, it reveals the mentality of the colonial empire. His argument was not a total condemnation of slavery; rather he condemned slavery that happened to a people that should be a part of the Spanish Empire, just as how the Romans included conquered people into…

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