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School of Law

Legal systems of Asia and Africa

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year

Legal Systems of Asia and Africa is an introduction to the comparative study of law, based on an examination of the norms, institutions and processes of some of the major traditional and modern legal systems of Asia and Africa.

The course explores a range of issues, including: 

  • theories of comparative law;
  • common law and civil law;
  • legal culture;
  • legal pluralism;
  • sources of law; 
  • harmonisation or unification of laws;
  • processes of dispute settlement;
  • accountability mechanisms;
  • links between social, political and legal systems; 
  • the legal profession and its equivalents; 
  • rule of law issues;
  • Western influences on traditional legal systems.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • Be able to understand and explain ideas about the value and purpose of comparative law;
  • Be able to articulate different perspectives on major debates concerning legal diversity and legal change;
  • Be familiar with some of the issues currently being researched in the School of Law, within the SOAS mandate;
  • Have developed skills in the use of primary and secondary legal sources and be able to handle materials from a variety of different legal systems and cultures;
  • Have developed the capacity to express ideas clearly and concisely both orally and in writing and to advance legal arguments in discussion with colleagues;
  • Have begun to develop individual research skills.

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 30% (3000 words)
  • Unseen written exam: 70%

Suggested reading

  • Werner Menski (2006) Comparative Law in a Global Context: The Legal Systems of Asia and Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mathias Siems (2014) Comparative Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Patrick H. Glenn (2007) Legal Traditions of the World: Sustainable Diversity in Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.