Colonialism, Empire and International Law

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Law, Gender and Media

Module overview

The module aims to explore historical and contemporary dimensions of the relationship between international law and colonialism.

In the first part of the term, we will consider the historical mappings of the colonial endeavour within international law as well as theoretical debates concerning colonialism, post-colonialism and neo-colonialism.

In the second half, we will focus on a variety of contemporary international law issues – for example, statehood and recognition; self-determination of peoples; failed states; administration of territory; violence and poverty - in light of the historical and theoretical 16 perspectives introduced in the earlier part of the term.

In addition to participating in the seminar programme, students will be required to undertake an independent research project on a chosen aspect of the relationship between international law and colonialism.

Objectives and learning outcomes

  • To demonstrate knowledge and awareness of the history of international law in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly as it relates to the non-European world
  • To engage in critical legal analysis of the theory and practice of international law and show awareness of the relationship between international legal discourse and post-colonial theory
  • To reflect critically upon the historic role of international law in promoting and resisting colonialism and neo-colonialism
  • To carry out independent research in the field of international law using both library-based and electronic resources


  • Weekly 2-hour seminar

Method of assessment

  • Annotated bibliography: 20% (1000 words)
  • Research essay: 80% (3000 words)

Suggested reading

  • Anghie A, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (CUP, 2004)
  • Pahuja S, Decolonizing International Law (CUP, 2011)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.