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School of Law

Public international law

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Full Year

This course provides an introduction to the main concepts and principles of public international law (PIL) with specific emphasis on their practical impact on the conduct of international affairs. It is structured into three parts. The first part focuses on the foundations of PIL (subjects, sources, principles and relations between international and domestic law). The second part deals with three major areas of PIL, namely the law of treaties, the law of State responsibility and the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The third part will be devoted to some specialized areas of PIL, particularly those of particular concern to Asian and African countries, such as international environmental law, human rights law, and the law governing economic development.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • Identify and describe the foundational concepts in Public International Law (for example, international sources, the role of sovereignty, the impact of international institutions, jurisdiction, state responsibility);
  • Recount and illustrate particular areas of Public International Law (for example, Human Rights Law, the Laws on the use of Force), especially those areas which pertain to issues in Africa and Asia;
  • Compare and appraise the role of different theoretical approaches in understandings of Public International Law;
  • Arrange the knowledge in 1-3 into coherent written pieces appropriate to the assessment demands of the course.

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 20% (2000 words)
  • Unseen written exam: 80%

Suggested reading

  • Anthony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (CUP, 2005)
  • Samantha Besson & John Tasioulas (eds), The Philosophy of International Law (OUP, 2010)
  • Alan Boyle & Christine Chinkin, The Making of International Law (OUP, 2007)
  • James Crawford, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law (OUP, 2012)
  • Martti Koskenniemi, From Apology to Utopia, (CUP, 2005)