IR5011 - From Bastille to Strasbourg- A Journey through Human Rights

What will I learn on this module?

On this module you will explore human rights through three main themes: the philosophy of human rights, the implementation of human rights, human rights and globalisation.

In the ‘philosophy of human rights’ section, you will analyse the history of the concept of human rights and its critiques, starting with the first universal declaration in 1789.

In the ‘implementation of Human Rights’ section, you will critically analyse its gradual codification and legal implementation, at an international, European and national levels, and how real protection mechanisms were implemented after the Second World War, and critically evaluate its limitations. You will focus on three areas: the European Convention on Human Rights and the new rights acquired by European citizens to defend themselves against their own State; the rise of constitutional courts, focusing on the development of constitutional democracies as opposed to majority democracies and the frictions such a change has entailed, using France and Britain as case studies; the role the EU has played for the protection of human rights, starting from the So Lange case in Germany that forced the EU to become more attentive to Human Rights to an exploration of the four freedoms and finishing with an analysis of the European Charter of fundamental Rights.

In the ‘Human Rights and globalisation’ section you will examine the challenges human rights face in a globalised world by focusing on the universalist versus relativist debate on the one hand, humanitarian intervention and right to protect on the other.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn on this module through a combination of lectures, seminar activities and academic tutorials. In the lectures you will be presented with the concept and evolution of human rights, their codification, the protection mechanisms put in place as well as their limits and the challenges they face. In small seminar groups, you will debate and discuss with other students some of the key issues developed in the lectures. Seminars will be organised around specific case studies, such as women, children and minority rights. They will mostly consist of student-led discussion, thus allowing you to critically engage with the issues introduced in the related lecture. You will also be required to undertake directed and independent study, and you will be given guidelines to actively engage in informed discussions in seminar groups. Materials used in this module will be made available to you on the eLearning Portal.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported by the module tutor who can be contacted in class, by email and in regular tutorial slots. Your academic development will be facilitated through engagement with the academic literature and by talking with your peers and academics about your understanding of the literature. You will use seminars and tutorials to further enrich your learning experience. You will be supported in finding your own voice and your tutor will be very happy to discuss your ideas. You will receive individual attention from your tutor and you will receive guidance on how to approach your assessment. Support materials will also be provided via Blackboard.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:

1. Explore the complex debates and philosophies in relation to the concept of human rights, its polysemy and its evolution since 1789.

2. Analyse the implementation of protection mechanisms at international, European and national levels and its limitations.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
At the end of this module I will be able to:

3. Critically engage with the various philosophies behind human rights.

4. Investigate and analyse issues related to the codification and implementation of human rights in a globalised world.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
At the end of this module you will be able to:

5. Synthesise complex information and construct an argument based upon evidence

How will I be assessed?

Your summative assessment will consist of a 3,000 word written assignment which will assess your knowledge and understanding of issues related to human rights, and will test the application of your critical analytical skills.

An individual presentation, either narrated or face-to-face, will test your ability to apply theories of human rights to concrete cases. You will be asked to present a briefing paper on specific and controversial cases.

The essay will assess the following MLOs:
1, 3,4

The presentation will assess the following MLOs: 2, 5

You will receive formative feedback during the seminars and summative feedback on the assignments.





Module abstract


Course info

UCAS Code L2L2

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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