Civil Liberties in History

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11490

Did people always have freedoms like those outlined in the Bill of Rights? Any student of history knows people have been (and still are) oppressed. How would the BOR look if you wrote it now?


Civics, United States

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Americans should appreciate having a Bill of Rights.

  • What do you think life was like before the Bill of Rights?
  • Did people have any rights that the government protected?

Reflect on the following questions as you read about Law in the Middle Ages.

  • Who determined the law back in the Middle Ages?
  • What were the limits on the types of punishment the government could use?
  • How was that system different from the system America has today?

One of history's fascinating — and sometimes terrifying — lessons is that governments and their leaders often abuse power.

Some brilliant people began thinking about how to limit that power a few centuries ago. Oddly enough, the tools they decided upon were a pen and paper!

See how law and power evolved from the grim and brutal days of the Middle Ages to the U.S. Bill of Rights.

  1. Explore A Brief History of Human Rights, navigating through all five pages of information. As you read, gather notes about each event that developed the concept of civil liberties and human rights, such as the following.
  • key documents
  • important people
  • critical events
  • other noteworthy facts
  1. After gathering your notes, create a timeline with at least eight items describing the history of human rights.
  1. Use online research to add at least five new facts or ideas to your timeline.

Present your timeline to someone and discuss the following questions.

  • What conclusions can you draw about the history of civil liberties?
  • How does the U.S. Bill of Rights relate to other historical developments?
  • If these civil liberties are such a great idea, why do so many countries still not have them?

Now that you have an overview of the history of civil liberties and the development of human rights, continue to the Got It? section to look at some of the specific attempts to preserve rights for the people against their government over time.

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