From the 1700s to the 1950s human rights were respected better in Britain than anywhere else, and human rights were popular in Britain. But by the 1990s British people no longer saw human rights as British. ‘Rights’ is used here to refer to standards to which the law should conform, whether or not they are legally enforceable. The arguments are (1) that the framers of the American and French Declarations of rights 1776–89, included rights which were already enshrined in English common law and statutes; (2) that human rights did not originate in the late eighteenth century, but before Magna Carta; and (3) that Ministers, public officials, and judges should normally justify what they do by reference to British law, not human rights. The protection of British rights generally equals or exceeds that of human rights. The book’s structure, sources, author’s point of view, and intended readership are explained.
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