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School of Law

Foundations of international law

Course Code:
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Taught in:
Term 1

The course provides important introductory material for students who do not have a background in international law and wish to take other international law units at SOAS.

The course uses the SOAS Law Department undergraduate Public International Law lectures to introduce the basic concepts and practices which form the foundations of public international law. These lectures are presented with specific attention to the impact, influence and development of public international law in the African and Asian contexts. Mainstream narratives which emerge from the West are challenged through the use of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and other contemporary critical theories. Students are encouraged to study the mainstream approaches and representations of these laws alongside alternative conceptions and influences. The syllabus includes study of the sources of international law, personality, international institutions, jurisdiction and immunities, the relationship between in international and domestic law, state responsibility and theories of global governance.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

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

  • 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) with special reference to issues relevant to Asia and Africa;
  • compare and appraise the role of different theoretical approaches in understandings of Public International Law;
  • discuss recent developments in Public International Law and demonstrate an understanding of their broader impact on the topic as a whole;
  • explain the relationship between theoretical perspectives on international law, the behaviour of states and the development of international legal norms, as well as the role of international institutions
  • arrange the knowledge in (1) to (4), above, into coherent responses to an exam based assessment.

Method of assessment

  • Unseen written exam: 100%

Suggested reading

Key texts:

  • Boyle and Chinkin, The Making of International Law, Oxford, 2007
  • Charlesworth and Chinkin, The Boundaries of International Law, Manchester, 2000
  • Evans, International Law Documents, 8th Ed, 2007
  • Higgins, Problems and Process: International Law and How We Use It, Oxford, 1994
  • Klabbers, International Law, Oxford, 2013