A Novel Sensibility

Inventing Human Rights
A History
Lynn Hunt
W. W. Norton, $25.95, 320 pp.

We hold these truths to be self-evident,” begins the most famous document in American history. But, asks Lynn Hunt, if these truths are so self-evident, why did they require a declaration? In fact, the ideas that inspired Americans to rebellion-especially the idea that all people are endowed by the Creator with unalienable rights-have never been treated as all that obvious. To take the most obvious example, the current government of the...

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About the Author

Alan Wolfe is director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, and the author of Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It (Knopf).