Crimes Against Humanity

Birth of a concept

By Norman Geras

Crimes Against Humanity


  • Paperback
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8241-2
  • Pages: 176
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: April 2011
  • BIC Category: History, Popular philosophy, Human rights, civil rights, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Genocide & War Crimes, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Human Rights, War Crimes, Humanities / Popular philosophy


This book tells the story of the emergence of the concept of crimes against humanity. It examines its origins, the ethical assumptions underpinning it, its legal and philosophical boundaries, and some of the controversies connected with it. A brief historical introduction is followed by an exploration of the various meanings of the term 'crimes against humanity' that have been suggested; a definition is proposed linking it to the idea of basic human rights. The book looks at some problems with the boundaries of the concept, the threshold for its proper application and the related issue of humanitarian intervention. It concludes with a discussion of the prospects for the further development of crimes-against-humanity law.

The work serves as a clear and compact introduction for students of politics, philosophy and law, as well as for the general reading public.


"Readers will learn not only about the nature of the law, but also about the predicates underlying it, the influences on it, its history and its possible progression as well as its relationship to humanitarian intervention."
(Timothy Mawe, University College Cork, Political Studies Review, May 2014)

'This book represents a strong theoretical contribution and informative guide for both academics and practitioners dealing with the subject. In addition, this book is beneficial for a general non-specialist audience as an accessible tool in shedding light on one of the most topical, complicated and contentious issues in the sphere of contemporary international law.'
Rustam B. Atadjanov, Issue 1 of 2016 of the Journal of International Criminal Justice, July 2016

'Norman Geras's Crimes against humanity is an elegantly written and deeply humane work that examines the philosophical basis of one of the core crimes of international law.For a compact, thoughtful, and philosophically sophisticated discussion of a category of crime that has become central to international law and global politics, it would be difficult to do better than this volume.'
Andrew Altman, Springer: Criminal Law and Philosophy (2016)


Chapter 1 Origins and development
Chapter 2 Why against humanity?
Chapter 3 A jurisdictional threshold
Chapter 4 Humanitarian intervention
Chapter 5 Utopia into law
Appendix Review of Larry May


Norman Geras is Professor Emeritus in Politics at the University of Manchester.

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