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Capsule Review

A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In This Review

A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
By Mary Ann Glendon
Random House, 2001 333 pp. $25.95 Purchase

An inspiring history of how the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights launched the modern human rights movement. The story centers on Eleanor Roosevelt, who led a small group of diplomats and legal experts in hammering out the world's first international bill of rights. Inside the U.N. Human Rights Commission, Roosevelt and her colleagues struggled with philosophical disputes, personal quirks, and national rivalries. Outside, the world also complicated matters as the major powers squabbled. Meanwhile, the Allied leaders were largely unconcerned with the commission and focused instead on ways to prevent war through territorial guarantees and collective security. The declaration got its necessary push from religious and peace groups, legal activists, and political figures from smaller countries, all convinced that the disregard for freedom and social justice had caused the barbarity of World War II. Finding a universal voice for these ideas -- articulated in a way that could not be dismissed as simply "Western" -- was perhaps the commission's most important achievement. Few books reveal so evocatively the spirit of that time.

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