The enlightened Christian? Hannah More in a human rights picaresque
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This report explores and questions the history of human rights rhetoric through the 18th century anti-slave trade poem of Hannah More, Slavery, a poem. Hannah More used the term ‘human rights’ more than 150 years before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nevertheless, when historians and political scientists track the history of human rights, it is frequently presented as “from Locke through Paine” as part of a narrative of the “coming of age” of democracy in a longer quest for rights stemming from 18th century revolutions and radicalism. This report looks instead at the episodic nature of human rights rhetoric through 18th century ideas of the human. As argued here, More’s use of the term ‘human rights’ indicates an attempt to reconcile the tension between Enlightenment and Christian discourses to promote the anti-slave trade cause.