Summary Edit

Based on this critical review, David Armitage’s book challenges scholars to adjust the prevailing interpretive framework of the Declaration of Independence. Just as much as it was a document that professed individual rights and freedoms, it also presented the idea of a nation-state that required international recognition. It thus must be examined within a global/transnational framework. The Declaration led to the proliferation of nation-states, which have come to define the world and create the structures in which individual rights are supposed to be protected. What is key for Armitage is how the document led to the recognition of the U.S. as a free, sovereign state: The Franco-American treaties of 1778; overt French aid; recognition by Spain, the Dutch Republic, Morocco and others; and the British Crown’s formal diplomatic acknowledgement in 1783 of the “said United States as Free Sovereign, and Independent States.” Individual rights dependent on state rights/sovereignty. Thus, the declaration’s global history is a story of the worldwide spread of statehood. It is also the story of the rise, fall, and resurgence of the language of human rights.

See also: Ashli White