The Nuremberg Idea

The Nuremberg Idea: Crimes against Humanity in History, Law & Politics

Monday,  Feb. 08 2016

4:00pm — 5:30pm
6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
“The Nuremberg Idea” offers a historically-informed answer to one of the key social theory questions of our time: How did “human rights” become a concept that even the most heinous regimes feel they need to buy into? In tackling this question through the vector of the term “crimes against humanity,” this history offers a new transdisciplinary analysis of how human rights norms are formed, transmitted, and sustained, both domestically and at the supra-national level. Nuremberg-infused ideas about accountability and sovereignty have unfolded throughout the postwar era, culminating in the United Nations’ official adoption of the doctrine of “the Responsibility to Protect” in 2005.

Liz Borgwardt specializes in the history of international law with a focus on human rights ideas and institutions. As associate professor of History at Washington University in St Louis, she also holds a courtesy appointment in Law. Her A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights, was published by Harvard University Press and has been recognized as the Best Book in the History of Ideas and the Best First Book in U.S. Foreign Relations by the Organization of American Historians and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, respectively. It is in its fourth printing. Borgwardt has earned History doctorate from Stanford, a JD from Harvard Law School, and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. She has held fellowships with Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and NYU, as well as a Fulbright with the University of Heidelberg and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. She recently served as the Richard and Ann Pozen Visiting Professor of Human Rights at the University of Chicago. Her current project on crimes against humanity in history, law, and politics is under contract with Alfred A. Knopf.

The Washington History Seminar is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. See for the schedule, speakers, topics, and dates as well as webcasts and podcasts. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations for their support.

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