Human Rights through the Ages premiered at our Human Rights Tour 2012. It highlights a handful of historical events that have contributed to our modern understanding of human rights, with a bit of tongue in cheek media commentary thrown in. It has proved extremely popular, have a watch and see what you think!

Human Rights through the Ages…

1215: The Magna Carta an agreement between rebellious barons and the King, protected the right to liberty and due process. All but three of the original clauses are no longer in force; liberty and due process are still in place.

1381: The Peasant’s Revolt: This was fuelled by feudal privilege, a new Poll tax and limited workers’ rights – particularly among serfs. The revolt helped to bring around the end of serfdom; the last serfs were freed in 1574.

1689: The English Bill of Rights set limits on the Monarch’s powers. No more suspending laws without the consent of Parliament! The Bill protected regular elections and free speech in Parliament and prohibited excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.

1789: The French Declaration of the Rights of Man reflected new ideas that human beings had “natural” rights which should always be protected. However, human beings did not include women or slaves, who were not “active citizens”.

1791: The United States Bill of Rights set out a series of personal freedoms, another milestone for human rights. But the Bill only protected white men, no rights for slaves or Native Americans, and very few for people viewed as “black” or women.

1833: Terrible conditions for children in Britain led to the Factory Acts. The 1833 Act banned the employment of children under 9. Factories were obliged to give 2 hours education for children under 13 and older children “only” had to work 12 hours a day.

1871: Adult workers were banned from joining Trade Unions, which protected their rights, until 1871 when they were legalised. Unions helped to lobby for safer working conditions, an end to compulsory 16 hour days and wider voting rights.

1918: The Representation of the People Act gave the vote to women of property over 30 and men over 21. In 1928 women over 21 were given the vote and they could stand for parliament.

1942: The Beveridge Report led to the creation of the Welfare State, including pensions, unemployment benefit and universal healthcare.

1948: On 10th December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations. It included social and economic rights as well as civil liberties. 

1965: The Race Relations Act was the first legislation in the UK to ban discrimination on racial grounds. In 2010 the Equality Act brought existing anti-discrimination legislation under a single Act and added further protections.

1966: The UK signed the European Convention of Human Rights in 1951. From 1966, individuals could take a case to the European Court of Human Rights, but only after appeal to the highest UK court had failed.

2000: The Human Rights Act brought into UK law 16 rights from the European Convention already agreed to by the UK Government. The Act allowed anyone to claim these rights in any UK Court and be heard by British judges.