HUMR4130 – Introduction to the History, Philosophy and Politics of Human Rights

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course provides an introduction to the history, philosophy and politics of human rights, beginning with a brief presentation of the pre-history and the modern development of international human rights. Second, you will examine the concept of universal human rights and justifications and criticisms of human rights in general. Next, you will study political and philosophical debates about the soundness of specific human rights norms. You will also examine the status, roles, and uses of human rights in international relations and the issue of promoting human rights across borders. Finally, you will examine dilemmas and conflicts related to freedom of religion or belief, and study attempts at grounding or finding support for human rights in specific normative traditions (Confucianism and Islam).

Learning outcome

This course will, successfully completed, provide you with a good understanding of basic conceptual features of modern human rights, including standard justifications and criticisms, of the relationships between human rights and comprehensive moral and political doctrines, and of how they relate to moral and cultural relativism. You will understand the complex, dynamic, and sometimes ambiguous ways human rights promotion operate in transnational, international, and domestic contexts.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Admission is limited to students studying at the Master's Degree level.


Recommended previous knowledge

Students with no background in human rights studies are strongly advised to prepare in advance the recommended readings.


Lectures and seminars with active student participation.


4 hour written examination.

Examination support material

Auxiliary materials allowed during examinations for courses taught in English.

Recommended/Special Material

Language of examination


Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

A student can sit for this exam up to 3 times. If a student wishes to withdraw from the exam, s/he must do this in StudentWeb at least two weeks prior to the first day of the exam. Failure to do so will be counted as one of the three opportunities to sit for the exam.
A study programme may have rules that further limit the number of times a student may re-take this exam. In such instances the rules of the study programme will have priority.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Please se Detailed regulations for the Faculty of Law, Chapter 3 regarding application, responsibilities and special measures.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.


This subject (10 ECTS credits) is taught at Master 's level. The subject is also taught as a 15 ECTS credits course at Master's level, please please see HUMR5130 – Introduction to the History, Philosophy and Politics of Human Rights (discontinued). The subject is also taught at Bachelor's level, please see HUMR1130 – Introduction to the History, Philosophy and Politics of Human Rights (discontinued)(10 ECTS credits. Please see the chapter above, regarding overlap. For instances of overlap, credits will be deducted on the subject at Bachelors's level.

Facts about this course




No more lectures are given in this course.


Spring 2011

Exam in this course is given for the last time during spring 2011.

Teaching language