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LAWS2035 Introduction to Public International Law

Module Overview

The story of Public International Law is the story of historic and present-day efforts to address international issues of common concern – conflict within and between states, climate change, human rights abuses, international crimes, global trade, and control over and use of the world’s oceans, for example. In this module we will explore how international law works; how the world is – or, perhaps, is not – governed by international law. We will consider what international law is, its history and future, the purposes it serves, its interpretation and application, and its relationship with domestic (English) law. By taking this module you will gain an appreciation of law’s global context and an understanding of law’s function and effectiveness in addressing international challenges and threats. This appreciation and understanding will be valuable in any future career given the increasingly international nature of life today and especially useful for those hoping to work in large global law-firms.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

‘Introduction to Public International Law’ aims, in general, to provide you with: - An understanding of how public international law works – that is, the means employed by international lawyers and international legal institutions to address matters of international concern, resolve disputes, and create international law. - An understanding of what public international law is – that is, the ability to explain and construct arguments on the basis of competing ideas about how international law exists and what it seeks to achieve. - An appreciation of law’s global context – that is, an appreciation of the various ways in which legal methods, practices and institutions are and have been employed to address matters of international concern. - A general understanding of public international law’s function as a means of addressing matters of international concern. - An awareness of public international law’s socio-political context and history and an appreciation of the relevance of that context and history to the creation, interpretation, and application of international law. More specifically, the course will be structured around the following learning outcomes:

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the development of public international law over time to place the current international situation in its historical context;
  • the relevance of public international law’s socio-political context and history to its nature and function through a range of theoretical approaches to and understandings of these;
  • the methods and processes by which public international law is made by identifying, interpreting and applying international legal rules and principles;
  • the relationship between international law and the domestic law of the UK and selected comparator jurisdictions and how each treats and applies the other;
  • the international legal rules concerning treaties and their application to factual scenarios.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • construct arguments through the analysis of relevant legal materials and literature;
  • apply the legal rules and principles studied on the course to factual scenarios;
  • critically analyse academic literature on public international law and situate your argument in relation to the arguments or positions advanced in that literature.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate skills of self-management including an ability to reflect on the content and quality of your own work;
  • make critical judgments about international legal materials and relevant literature.


The following is an indicative list of module content. These topics may change year-by-year, reflecting current developments and allowing syllabus evolution: The Nature and Structure of Public International Law The Sources of Public International Law The Law of Treaties The Relationship between International Law and Domestic Law International Legal Personality, Statehood, and Recognition

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: Teaching will be delivered by lectures and tutorials. Lectures will provide you with an overview of the law and the key principles / issues relevant to particular topics. After each lecture, and before the relevant tutorial, discussed below, you will be expected to complete independent study including reading of literature, cases, and international legal materials. You should refer to, and be guided by, the content of the lectures in carrying out this independent study. Learning activities: Tutorials will focus on questions supplied in advance. You will be expected to prepare answers to these questions and to come to the tutorial prepared to share their answers with the class in order to receive feedback from fellow-students and the tutorial leader. For some tutorials you may be asked to prepare a short presentation or to complete a short piece of written work.

Wider reading or practice5
Preparation for scheduled sessions70
Completion of assessment task16
Follow-up work7
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

D. Harris & S. Sivakumaran (2015). Cases and Materials on International Law. 

M. Dixon (2013). Textbook on International Law. 

M.D. Evans (ed) (2017). Blackstone’s International Law Documents. 



Problem solving


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended Texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate. Total costs should not exceed £90 unless publishers' prices increase significantly.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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