The essential element of this unit revolves around understanding the manner in which our very concept of justice has evolved from the beginning of time. From Hammurabi on, people have been redefining justice and reclassifying those subject to that justice. It is a constant and perpetual process.
In understanding that process, the author of today's reading points out that every jump forward in the field of human rights was met with a significant backlash in which those rights were attacked and scaled back. After the French Revolution came the dictatorships of the 1800s, for example. In this sense, the evolution of justice and human rights needs to be understood as incremental, that is, it progresses forward in small chunks which are then subjected to backlash. The sum of these jumps forward inevitable equal progress, but overall, the time immediately after a major refashioning of human rights is typically pretty tumultuous.
As we progress through the events, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First of all, what we're doing in this unit is what's called a "bottom up" version of history. Most history is written from the top-down, that is, a person of a higher class writes about the military victories, governmental decisions, and powerful people that make a country/state/nation "great." Very rarely do the average people get included-there are few average-to-poor people who have the time to write history (as I said in class, they were busy trying to, you know, make enough money to eat and stuff). The history of justice and human rights offers a look at history in the opposite direction. We'll get the opportunity to see average people step up and demand inclusion into the justice system, and in doing so, make them both part of an influential to the new system.
Overall, the history of justice and human rights offers us a unique perspective on history. We get to now see the evolution of a concept which is not only controversial today, but also at the core of what our country stands for. Hopefully, this unit will allow you to reconsider your own beliefs about justice, and fight against those things you feel are unjust in today's society.