Some of the first humanists were great collectors of antique manuscripts, including Petrarch, Coluccio Salutati, and Poggio Bracciolini. Of the three, Petrarch was dubbed the “Father of Humanism” because of his devotion to Greek and Roman scrolls. Many worked for the organized Church and were in holy orders (like Petrarch), while others were lawyers and chancellors of Italian cities (such as Petrarch’s disciple Salutati, the Chancellor of Florence) and thus had access to book copying workshops.
In Italy, the humanist educational program won rapid acceptance and, by the mid-fifteenth century, many of the upper classes had received humanist educations. Some of the highest officials of the Church were humanists with the resources to amass important libraries. Such was Cardinal Basilios Bessarion, a convert to the Latin Church from Greek Orthodoxy, who was considered for the papacy and was one of the most learned scholars of his time. There were several fifteenth-century and early sixteenth-century humanist Popes one of whom, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pius II), was a prolific author and wrote a treatise on “The Education of Boys”.] These subjects came to be known as the humanities, and the movement which they inspired is shown as humanism.
Italian Humanism spread northward to France, Germany, the Low Countries, and England with the adoption of large-scale printing after the end of the era of incunabula (or books printed prior to 1501), and it became associated with the Protestant Reformation. In France, pre-eminent Humanist Guillaume Budé (1467–1540) applied the philological methods of Italian Humanism to the study of antique coinage and to legal history, composing a detailed commentary on Justinian’s Code. Budé was a royal absolutist (and not a republican like the early Italian umanisti) who was active in civic life, serving as a diplomat for François I and helping to found the Collège des Lecteurs Royaux (later the Collège de France). Meanwhile, Marguerite de Navarre, the sister of François I, was a poet, novelist, and religious mystic who gathered around her and protected a circle of vernacular poets and writers, including Clément Marot, Pierre de Ronsard, and François Rabelais.
“ No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right. ”
— Clause XXIX of the Magna Carta
According to historian Samuel Moyn the next major landmark in human rights happened in the 1970s. Human right was included in point VII of Helsinki Accords, which was signed in 1975 by thirty-five states, including the USA, Canada, and all European states except Albania and Andorra.
During his inaugural speech in 1977, the 39th President of United States Jimmy Carter made human rights a pillar of United States foreign policy. Human rights advocacy organization Amnesty International later won Nobel Peace Prize also in 1977. Carter, who was instrumental in Camp David accord peace treaty would himself later won Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development”.