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The Institutional Expansion of Human Rights, 1863-2003: A Comprehensive Dataset of International Instruments


  • Michael A Elliott

    () (Department of Sociology, Towson University)


This article summarizes the results of a recently completed, comprehensive coding of 779 human rights instruments from 1863 to 2003. As such, it offers an extensive portrayal of how, and to what degree, this powerful doctrine has been formally institutionalized over time. Following a brief overview of the data collection process, selected results from this study are presented that highlight how many human rights instruments have been drafted, what kind of violations have been most prominent, the number of rights that have been specified over time, and the ultimate aspirations that are linked to the realization of human rights. Next, potential applications of this dataset are discussed regarding both human rights and peace research scholarship. Specifically, the results shed new light on the historical development of human rights by highlighting key periods of instrument growth in the late 19th century, the interwar years, and the post-World War II period. In addition, the data can effectively augment recent quantitative studies that measure the effect of treaty ratification on internal state violence by helping to generate more extensive ratification information, develop better measures of state compliance, and construct new measures that assess how human rights principles get translated into national practice and potentially mitigate state violence over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael A Elliott, 2011. "The Institutional Expansion of Human Rights, 1863-2003: A Comprehensive Dataset of International Instruments," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 48(4), pages 537-546, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:48:y:2011:i:4:p:537-546

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