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School of Law

Environmental Law

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

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate:

  • Detailed knowledge of the key principles, actors and institutions relevant to environmental law in the domestic and international domains
  • An understanding of twenty-first century ‘global’ environmental law within an historical context
  • A critical understanding of the concept of the ‘environment’ in law and the ways in which it has changed over time
  • An appreciation of the impact that British colonial practices have had on the development of environmental law, with particular reference to Asia and Africa

Scope and syllabus

This course provides a critical introduction to environmental law, within a global and historical context. The autumn term begins with an overview of the relation between international and domestic regimes, as they have evolved since WWII. This is followed by a series of lectures that situate the legal regulation of the environment against a background of changing attitudes in early modern Britain. Particular attention is given to conceptions of ‘humanness’, ‘the environment’ and ‘the animal’, drawing examples from case law and legislation.

The second half of the course examines how these changing attitudes were translated into legal regimes in British colonies. Forests, water, wildlife and common lands were subject to – in some cases wholesale – appropriation by both local and colonial authorities. How did these processes redefine the ways in which people grew and processed their food and engaged with their animals? How did these changes differ across jurisdictions in Africa and Asia? The course ends by looking at present day issues such as conservation, heritage and animal welfare, asking what it means to think about the ‘environment’ of environmental law in light of this history.

Following completion of the course, students can expect to have a broad understanding of how modern environmental law has evolved, with specific knowledge of the operation of regimes such as the CBD and CITES. The key objective of the course is to re-historicise contemporary ‘global’ environmental law, with particular reference to developments in Britain and its colonies in Africa and Asia. Through individual research projects students are expected to develop critical perspectives on aspects of the topics covered throughout the year, using sources and theories from other disciplines (such as politics, history, anthropology and gender studies) alongside conventional environmental law texts.

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 100% coursework (1 written assignment of 8,000 words).