Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are our “inalienable rights” as Thomas Jefferson puts it, or rights that are inherent to being a citizen of America, but few know where the phrase first appeared. Even Jefferson seems to have pulled the phrase from John Locke who had used the phrase in 1689. The notion of rights being inherent, out of the reaches of the state, at least not a tyrannical one, is intriguing.
Tom Prasch, chair of the history department, seeks to present the footprint of this idea, its precursors and current iterations the way it has been interpreted in different contexts. Prasch will present in this semester’s International House Brown Bag series. His lecture will be first, and it will be presented at noon Wednesday, Feb. 6 at the International House. Six more lectures will follow throughout the semester until May 8.
Prasch will go back to 1640s England, during the English Civil Wars, when the idea was used to justify regicide. He will also look at how the idea influenced both the French and the American Revolutions before and after the revolutions. He will then show how it spread beyond those regions to reach places like Haiti, Poland and Latin American states as well.
The Brown Bag Lecture series is free to the public and students.