Disclosure: Human Rights Careers may be compensated by course providers.

8 Human Rights Study Books You Can Download For Free

Human Rights knowledge does not have to cost much. Many universities and international organizations offer some of their publications for free. You can download the pdf versions of these selected books onto your phone or any other device to support your human rights studies or work. Here are descriptions and links to eight human rights study books you can download for free.

1.      Lifting the Spirit: Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief (Published by Human Rights Resource Center, University of Minnesota)

University of Minnesota has done all human rights students and professionals a great favor by establishing the Human Rights Library, an incredibly large pool of human rights resources. In addition to human rights treaties, United Nations documents, human rights documents from the United States, and many others, this library also contains a small section on Human Rights Education and Training. Here you will find a series of human rights books published by University of Minnesota with the goal of helping the educators in the US and abroad who wish to build a culture of human rights in their communities. There is a foundation volume to be read as the first step, and another eight books organized by topic. One of the latest topic-based book in the series is called Lifting the Spirit: Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief. This book is a valuable resource for teachers, but also anyone who wishes to understand the concept of freedom of religion or belief. It is designed for secondary classrooms, religious institutions, and youth advocacy organizations, and can be adapted to distinct cultural settings. The book guides the reader through 21 different lessons on freedom of religion and belief, which are followed by a series of human rights documents and a human rights glossary that helps understand the very basic concepts.

2.      Communication & Human Rights (Published by International Association for Media and Communication Research, Mexico, 2012)

This book was published after the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) organized a conference on Communication and Human Rights in Mexico City in 2009. The book is a collection of the best papers which were presented at the conference. It is very international in character, and it informs the reader about such a great variety of communication-related topics, including media education and human rights, languages, and censorship. Freedom of expression and right to communicate are of particular interest in this collection of articles. The ways in which information and privacy rights have been eroded become a concern of all after reading this book. In it, you will also find interesting debates about women’s human and communication rights, or the right to identity and communication. It is a useful resource for media and communication students, policy-makers and practitioners, as well as for human rights professionals who wish to explore the relationship between human rights and freedoms and the media. The book is available for a free download in both English and Spanish.

3.      Mainstreaming Politics: Gendering Practices and Feminist Theory (Published by University of Adelaide Press, 2010)

University of Adelaide Press is another publisher that often allows free access to some of its ebooks, several of which concerns human rights. In the spotlight stands this collection of articles edited by Bacchi and Eveline in 2010. This is an advanced book which offers a novel approach to gender equality, the process of social change, and any corresponding policy-making. The book focuses on gender mainstreaming, which is a recent development in gender equality policies all over the world as well as in international organizations such as the World Bank. More precisely, there are a couple of chapters which explain the concept and then further explore different approaches to gender mainstreaming. Furthermore, the idea of diversity mainstreaming is introduced, explained and juxtaposed vis-à-vis gender mainstreaming. The authors treat the process of reducing and eliminating sexism, racism and other inequalities and oppressions as still on-going and long-term, and propose concrete steps forward. For these reasons, this book is a must-read for everyone interested in equality, particularly public policy students and policy-makers.

4.      A Basic Human Right: Meaningful Access to Legal Representation The Human Rights Policy Seminar, University of North Carolina School of Law. (Published by University of North Carolina, 2015)

This book offers a great overview of the legal framework of the right to have access to legal representation. Although it concerns a legal topic, this book is written in a way so that readers of different professional backgrounds can explore what happens or should happen when human rights are defended. At the very beginning, the authors elaborate on the importance of having a meaningful and effective counsel when one’s human rights are endangered. In the US and elsewhere, the access to legal services remains inadequate, and this threatens the basic human rights of us all. Having established that, the authors move on to discuss the international, regional, and domestic US norms which put the right to legal representation to force. Finally, the book is not merely theoretical, but it aspires to teach through examples. For this reason, there is a number of cases from the US such as civil legal claims, immigration cases, and examples from the criminal justice system. With such a diversity of topics and practical explanations, this book can be an excellent resource for law students, young legal professionals, as well as people working or willing to work in the non-governmental organizations.

5.      Transitional Justice Theories (Published by Routledge, 2014)

Transitional justice is a young discipline, which has become increasingly valuable in recent decades in societies emerging from conflict or authoritarian regimes. Transitional Justice Theories is an essential resource for all students and practitioners interested in peace studies, conflict resolution, and post-conflict stability. The editors compiled a number of articles from distinguished scholars and practitioners to create this fundamental piece. The book defines and redefines our understanding of transitional justice, presents novel critiques of the field, and gives guidance about in which direction transitional justice discourse and practice should continue. The chapters tackle the broad topics of reconciliation in divided societies, the power of transitional justice to be transformative, the construction of the past in truth commissions, and a critical theory perspective of the political economy of transitional justice, among others. It is an excellent book to use in human rights and critical theory classes or to explore on your own in order to learn more about the essential work that needs to be done in the field of transitional justice for the betterment of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

6.      Human Rights and Technology. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Published by University for Peace, 2017)

This is one of the most recent publications of University for Peace. The book is a collection of twelve articles which have the overarching goal to evaluate how technology can improve the protection of human rights and help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The authors are human rights professors and researchers from all over the world, interested in a variety of development topics. That said, you will be able to learn more about how social media networks can be more sustainable, what the online spaces and digital platforms should do to prevent violence against LGBTI communities, the LGBTI rights documentation policy and practice in Africa, how information communication technologies (ICT) can help us decrease gender equality in Sub-Saharan Africa, and much more. There is a separate section on capacity building and technology transfer where water and sanitation technologies in rural Nepal. Moreover, innovations which can bring about equitable access to clean drinking water in India are discussed. This book can help human rights practitioners embrace technology to improve human rights in their communities and assist students and researchers in exploring new and more efficient policies. This book is written in two languages, so some chapters are available only in Spanish.

7.      Can Human Rights Survive? (Published by Cambridge University Press, 2006)

This human rights book consists of three essays which were originally presented as a part of the 2005 Hamlyn Lectures. The author Conor Gearty, who is a Professor of Human Rights Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, discusses a particular human rights crisis in each of the essays: the crisis of authority, the crisis of legalism, and the crisis of national security. He then explores whether human rights can truly survive all the present challenges such as terrorism and the degradation of our environment and resources. On a more philosophical note, this book also considers some of the fundamental questions such as the concept of human rights and how we define it. Such a book is a valuable study resource to use in order to understand the other, not so positivist side of the human rights debate. That said, the author’s arguments can help all those interested in human rights, politics and law be more critical of the present-day human rights system.

8.      Understanding Human Rights. Manual on Human Rights Education (Published by European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (ETC), Graz, 2012)

Funded by the Austrian Development Agency, this manual was published with the aim to support and encourage the public to learn about human rights and duties. It is a long and comprehensive piece which aspires to make human rights relevant to each and every person. In this way, human rights can be used as a tool for economic and social progress and people-centered sustainable development. The book includes a brief introduction to the system of human rights where a detailed overview of major developments in human rights law is presented, starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This section also includes a great number of human rights quotes which you can use in your writings or speeches. The book also deals with the historical and philosophical elements of human rights in a very simple, easy-to-read language. Furthermore, it contains hundreds of pages where each individual right is discussed in a separate module. Additional resources that come with this book concern human rights education methodology, the chronology of the global struggle for human rights, and a couple of United Nations human rights documents. This book is a fantastic resource for anyone who is getting acquainted with the international human rights framework and contemporary debates such as multinational corporations and human rights or impunity.

We hope you are going to take advantage of these free human rights study books and use them as resources in your work. Stay updated on these publisher’s news for any free human rights resources they may publish in the upcoming months.

About the author

Maja Davidovic

Maja Davidovic is a Serbian-born independent researcher and Human Rights graduate. She holds her M.A. degree from Central European University in Budapest, and had previously lived and worked in Greece, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Maja mostly researches about women’s rights, child protection and transitional justice, and has been involved with organizations such as MSF and OSCE, as well grassroots initiatives. You may follow her on her newly-made Twitter profile @MajaADavidovic, where she aspires to open discussions on a variety of human rights-related issues.