This chapter introduces the book’s enquiry into the idea of the rights of man in eighteenth-century England and into the earlier glimmerings of that idea in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English thought. If protection of the right to property is an implicit and sometimes explicit principle of international human rights law, the chapter raises the question of whether there may exist an alternative tradition of thought about human rights, in which what is important is not the right to property, but instead the dispossession of the unpropertied.
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