Marco Duranti, a historian based at the University of Sydney, has written an important new study about the origins of the European Convention of Human Rights. The book, published by Oxford University Press, is entitled 'The Conservative Human Rights Revolution -European Identity, Transnational Politics, and the Origins of the European Convention'. Based on extensive archival research, it proposes that - contrary to the image, in the eyes of many, of the Court in the past decades as a progressive developer of human rights - the original Convention negotiations were dominated by political conservatives, who saw the Strasbourg system as a safeguard for stability and containment rather than as a tool for change. This is the abstract:
'The Conservative Human Rights Revolution radically reinterprets the origins of the European human rights system, arguing that its conservative inventors envisioned the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) not only as an instrument to contain communism and fascism in continental Europe, but also to allow them to pursue a controversial political agenda at home and abroad. Just as the Supreme Court of the United States had sought to overturn Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, a European Court of Human Rights was meant to constrain the ability of democratically elected governments to implement left-wing policies that conservatives believed violated their basic liberties, above all in Britain and France.
Human rights were also evoked in the service of reviving a romantic Christian vision of European identity, one that contrasted sharply with the modernizing projects of technocrats such as Jean Monnet. Rather than follow the model of the United Nations, conservatives such as Winston Churchill grounded their appeals for new human rights safeguards in an older understanding of European civilization. All told, these efforts served as a basis for reconciliation between Germany and the rest of Europe, while justifying the exclusion of communists and colonized peoples from the ambit of European human rights law.
Marco Duranti illuminates the history of internationalism and international law — from the peace conferences and world's fairs of the early twentieth century to the grand pan-European congresses of the postwar period — and elucidates Churchill's Europeanism, as well as his critical contribution to the genesis of the ECHR. Drawing on previously unpublished material from twenty archives in six countries, The Conservative Human Rights Revolution revisits the ethical foundations of European integration after WWII and offers a new perspective on the crisis in which the European Union finds itself today.'