Revisiting the British Idealist theory of rights: the younger generation of British Idealists and their internationalist approach to human rights

Date
2018-09
Advisor
Alexander, James
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Bilkent University
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English
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Abstract

This dissertation aims to put forward a historical account of the younger generation of British Idealists’ approach to international relations and human rights. By focusing on pre-Great War and post-Great War periods it reveals the shift that occurred in their approbation of T. H. Green’s theory of rights. It argues that the Great War served as a deterrent for the younger generation of British Idealists, as it did for other liberal British intellectuals, from perceiving the empire as a plausible and/or sustainable international order. Realizing the incompatibility of the paternalistic approach to supposedly ‘savage’ peoples with the basic tenets of British Idealist political philosophy, they redirected their attention to extending Green’s understanding of rights to international sphere. Thus, a close reading of their work, especially on the post-Great War period reveals an early attempt of translating Green’s theory of rights into a human rights theory. When contemporary attempts to develop a British Idealist theory of human rights is considered, this study not only contributes to a better and ‘more nuanced’ understanding of British Idealists’ approach to international relations but also draws attention to a pristine British Idealist theory of human rights developed in the post-Great War era.

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British Idealism, First World War, Imperialism, League of Nations, Human Rights
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Published Version (Please cite this version)