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European Sources of Human Dignity

A Commented Anthology

Mette Lebech

This anthology brings together texts of significance for the conceptualisation of human dignity as a constitutional principle in Europe from the earliest evidence until 1965. It divides into four parts, respectively presenting the ancient, the medieval, the early modern and the modern sources. As far as human dignity is a constitutional principle, its history follows closely that of the constitution of states. However, various traditions of human dignity, understanding it to rely on features unrelated to the state, combine in the background to reflect the substance of the idea. The introductions to texts, chapters and parts narrates this history in relation to the texts presented to reflect it. The aim is to provide for scholars and students of law, philosophy, political science and theology a collection of texts documenting the history of the concept of human dignity that is sufficiently comprehensive to contextualise the various understandings of it. A structured bibliography accompanies the work.

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This work was begun more than twenty-five years ago. Many people have helped towards its realisation on its long journey, not least the two people to whom it is dedicated, sharing the desire to see it finished and in print. I hope it still is of consolation to them, now they are on the ‘other side’.

Many thanks are due to Jeremy Corley, John Glucker, Amos Edelheit, Stella Sørensen, John Flood, Harry McCauley, William Desmond, Andrea Robiglio, Jacob Rendtorff, Stephan Steiner, Maria José Vega, Klaus Schulte and Hilda Schulte Middelboe for many helpful suggestions and feedback. Thanks are also due to James McEvoy† for help with translations, some dating back to when the anthology was first begun, and for countless wonderful discussions, not least of the prayer framing the present work. My language specific proof readers, Elena Garcia, Helle Gjellerup, Anna Marie Lebech Sørensen, James Smith and Amos Edelheit all deserve thanks for their kind and sustained attention to detail. The mistakes and faults remaining are of course my own.

I would also like to thank my head of department Philipp Rosemann, for kindly leaving me alone over the summer of 2018 so I could finish the manuscript. The many helpers in the computer centre and the library at Maynooth University deserve thanks as well. Christabel Scaife, commissioning editor at Peter Lang, is due thanks for bravely commissioning the cumbersome project with all its many bits and for clearing the complex questions...

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