SOAS University of London

School of Law

Law and Nature

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 1

This module offers a theoretical introduction to thinking about law and nature. This half-unit module begins by placing contemporary environmental law within a global and historical context, leading to broader questions about changing conceptions of law and the animal, the human, and nature. While the first couple of weeks focus on substantive environmental law regimes (endangered species, forests, food animals, climate) the remainder of the course works to develop a critical understanding of how these regimes have been created in the way that they are, and why they succeed - or fail. Drawing on postcolonial, critical and feminist theory, and learning methodologies from adjacent disciplines such as history, human geography, anthropology, critical animal studies, gender studies, philosophy, and cultural studies, students will acquire a range of analytic tools to challenge existing paradigms. The assessment for the module consists of one exam (in short-answer essay question format), for which students will be prepared by means of a mock exam.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Demonstrate knowledge of the key principles, actors and institutions relevant to environmental law in the domestic and international domains;

  • Show a critical understanding of twenty-first century ‘global’ environmental law within an historical context;
  • Understand how the relationship between law and nature has shifted over time.
  • Show an appreciation of the impact that British colonial practices have had on the development of environmental law, with particular reference to Asia and Africa.

Method of assessment

Formative Assessment

In-class mock exam, with in-class feedback

Summative Assessments

Unseen Written Examination: 100%

Suggested reading

  • Birnie and Boyle, International Law and the Environment (CUP, 2009)
  • Clapp, An Environmental History of Britain Since the Industrial Revolution (Longman, 1994)
  • Darwin, On the Origin of Species (1859)
  • Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860 (CUP, 1995)
  • Otomo and Mussawir (eds) Law and the Question of the Animal: A Critical Jurisprudence (Routledge, 2013)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules