He begins with the often-violent conflicts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries - involving the likes of Torquemada, Servetus, Zwingli and Castellio - which were sparked by the pursuit of freedom of thought, uncontrolled by the Church and the Inquisition. In time, this drive towards greater independence and individual liberty led to bitter fighting in seventeenth-century Europe, including the Thirty Years' War and the English Civil War. Then, in part arising from the English constitutional settlement of 1688, came the eighteenth-century revolutions in America and France that swept away monarchies in favour of more representative forms of government. These in turn made possible the abolition of slavery, and later, rights for working men and women, universal education, the enfranchisement of women, and the idea of universal human rights and freedoms. Each of these struggles was a memorable human drama, and Grayling skilfully interweaves the stories of celebrated and little-known heroes alike, including Martin Luther, John Locke, Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Rosa Parks, whose bus protest became the catalyst of the US civil rights movement. The triumphs and sacrifices of these hard-won victories should make us value these precious rights even more highly, especially in an age when, as Grayling shows, democratic governments under pressure sometimes find it necessary to restrict rights in the name of freedom.