Samuel Moyn

Affiliated Professor (2013–2016)


Areas of teaching and research

  • History and theory of human rights
  • History of legal thought
  • Harvard University, J.D., 2001
  • University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D., 2000
  • University of California, Berkeley, M.A., 1995
  • Washington University, B.A., 1994

Samuel Moyn, James Bryce Professor of European Legal History in the Columbia University Faculty of Arts and Sciences, works on the history and theory of human rights, as well as on modern European intellectual history–with special interests in France and Germany, political and legal thought, historical and critical theory, and Jewish studies.

He is the author of several books, including The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History, and co-editor of The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s. He has been honored for his work with a variety of awards. He has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, the American Council of Learned Societies’ Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars, and several teaching awards. Moyn is co-director of the Consortium for Intellectual and Cultural History, editor of Humanity, co-editor of Modern Intellectual History, and an editorial associate for Constellations.

Selected publications

  • The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History
  • Origins of the Other: Emmanuel Levinas Between Revelation and Ethics
  • A Holocaust Controversy: The Treblinka Affair in Postwar France
  • (ed.) Pierre Rosanvallon, Democracy Past and Future
  • (co-ed.) The Modernist Imagination: Intellectual History and Critical Theory
  • (co-ed.) Global Intellectual History
  • (co-ed.) The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s
  • “The International Law That Is America: Reflections on the Last Chapter of Martti Koskenniemi’s Gentle Civilizer of Nations,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal, forthcoming
  • “The Continuing Perplexities of Human Rights,” Qui Parle 21, no. 2 (Fall 2013)
  • “The Secret History of Constitutional Dignity,” in Christopher McCrudden, ed., Understanding Human Dignity (Publications of the British Academy) (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming), in a longer and complete version in Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, forthcoming
  • “From Antiwar Politics to Antitorture Politics,” in Lawrence Douglas and Austin Sarat, eds., Law and War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014)
  • “Judith Shklar versus the International Criminal Court,” Humanity 4, no. 3 (Fall 2013)
  • “John Locke on Uncertainty, Intervention, and Insurgency,” in Stefano Recchia and Jennifer M. Welsh, eds., Just and Unjust Military Intervention: European Thinkers from Vitoria to Mill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • “Drones and Imagination: A Response to Paul Kahn,” European Journal of International Law 24, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 227-33
  • “Do Human Rights Treaties Make Enough of a Difference?” in Costas Douzinas and Conor Gearty, eds., Cambridge Companion to Human Rights Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 329-47
  • “Substance, Scale, and Salience: The Recent Historiography of Human Rights,” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 8 (2012): 123-40; in German in a somewhat related version as “Die neue Geschichte der Menschenrechte,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 38, no. 4 (November 2012): 545-72
  • “Imperialism, Self-Determination, and the Rise of Human Rights,” in Akira Iriye et al., eds., The Human Rights Revolution: An International History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)
  •  “Personalism, Community, and the Origins of Human Rights,” in Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, ed., Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); German version: “Personalismus, Gemeinschaft und die Ursprünge der Menschenrechte,” in Hoffmann, ed., Moralpolitik: Geschichte der Menschenrechte im 20. Jahrhundert (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2010)