The Law Department is the only one of its kind in the UK that is dedicated to legal systems and legal challenges of the developing world, with complementary strengths in human rights, international law and institutions, environmental law and international trade and commerce.
The Department has long enjoyed renown as a world-class centre for study and research in comparative (South, Central and East Asia, Africa, Islam and the Middle East), transnational, and international law. Today its staff continue that tradition in a new, globalised environment, contributing to the development of the vital disciplines of 21st-century law, such as international economic law, law and governance, law and conflict, and international commercial law.
We explore a wide range of legal issues bearing on developing states and their place in the world. Specialist fields include trade law, law and development, comparative law, commercial law (including copyright and patent law), human rights, environmental law, Islamic law, dispute resolution and international law, to name but a few.
The School of Law sponsors a number of publications, such as the Journal of African Law and the Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, and has established a number of thematic or regional research centres that reflect the specialist research themes within the School.
The School has unrivalled expertise in the field of comparative law (China, Africa, South/ South-East Asia, the Middle East), complemented by a range of experts dealing with issues of international and transnational law. All teachers on courses offered at SOAS are experts in their designated field. Many have years of experience advising governments, international organisations or non-governmental organisations. Many also have professional experience as qualified practitioners.
Among the principal themes of our research and teaching programme are:
Development and Pluralism
The School of Law possesses unmatched expertise in national legal systems of the developing world. This core expertise is combined with critical perspectives (post-colonial, gender, political economy) on the role of law and legal institutions in development policy; culturally-informed analysis of legal functions and institutions in African and Asian jurisdictions; knowledge and awareness of the continuing prestige of religiously-derived legal traditions (especially Islamic); and interest in the field of alternative dispute resolution.
Globalisation, Governance and Transition
The School of Law has considerable expertise in the following fields: International commercial, financial and company law; trade law and WTO; intellectual property law; the UN system, major regional intergovernmental systems (EU, AU, ASEAN) and regime-based institutions and processes from a developing world perspective; law in the context of market transition and democratisation (China, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa).
Human Rights and Environment
The School of Law has an established reputation as a centre of considerable expertise in the field of human rights and the environment. Specialist areas include: economic and social rights, justice and reconciliation, conflict and globalisation, gender equity and women’s role in conflict resolution; international and comparative environmental law in context of development (sustainability); inter-relation of national, regional, and international protection regimes, natural resources. The School of Law co-sponsors the Law, Environment and Development Journal (LEAD) published online at lead-journal.org lead-journal.org
Law and Colonialism
The School of Law has long been concerned with the legal dimensions of colonial and post-colonial discourse. It offers a range of courses associated with examining the relationship between law, globalisation and the enduring colonial heritage. These include Colonialism, Empire and International Law; Law and Globalisation; Law and Development; Human Rights in the Developing World; and Law, Institutions and the Political Economy of Transition.