Canadian lawyer and human rights advocate John Peters Humphrey (1905-1995) taught law at McGill
University before becoming the first director of the United Nations Division of Human Rights, a position he held from 1946 until 1966. Not allowed to comment publically on the various momentous events that took place on the international scene in the post-war era, he used the diaries he kept through his UN tenure as a forum to express his opinions.
After authoring the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the request of Eleanor Roosevelt, he shepherded the Declaration project through to its completion in 1948. He was involved in the development of the various human rights covenants and protected the division from a number of threats, including investigation by the staff for un-American activities and Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld's attempts to bring the human rights program to a standstill. Later in his career Humphrey introduced a highly successful technical assistance program in which international and regional seminars were held on specific human rights topics in countries all over the world. He was also deeply involved in the attempt to create the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the 1960s.
Edited by A.J. Hobbins, On the Edge of Greatness will be an invaluable source to anyone interested in this period of great change in human rights activities.