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The University of Southampton

LAWS6162 Fundamentals of Public International Law

Module Overview

International law captivates our attention. Stories unfold daily in the news media about such myriad topics as armed conflicts, climate change, trade disputes, nuclear disarmament, or popular movements for self-determination. This speaks to how important the field is, as well as its vast range. Nor is it the case that international law is only for international lawyers. Its penetration into domestic legal orders is difficult to overstate. It plays a significant role in everything from domestic human rights protection to the facilitation of investment by multinational companies. And when it comes to legal practice, clients increasingly expect or require their lawyers to advise on the international law dimensions of their questions. This module provides you with a firm understanding of international law’s foundations. It functions as an effective stand-alone introduction that is suitable for all students. It will also equip you with the necessary skills to develop further specialised expertise in international law, whether to meet the demands of your professional career or in furtherance of your academic interests.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • A1. The historical, political and economic contexts of international law, particularly in the context of the nature and functions of the international legal system the key sources of public international law.
  • A2. The core concepts and principles of public international law and their applications.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • B1. Identify and critically evaluate legal and policy issues of public international law in their economic and political contexts and possible policy responses.
  • B2. Communicate legal arguments and opinions concerning international law clearly, accurately and objectively.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • C1. Undertake independent research and access primary and secondary sources effectively.
  • C2. Analyse complex written texts and evaluate different types of arguments.
  • C3 Construct arguments and solve problems based on premises drawn from various sources.
  • C4. Communicate arguments orally and/or in writing and reference sources appropriately.


The module addresses foundation topics and questions in international law. 1. The Nature of International Law 2. The Sources of International Law 3. The Law of Treaties 4. Jurisdiction and Immunity 5. State Responsibility The module will begin with an introduction to the nature of international law. We will reflect on questions such as: How different is international law from domestic legal systems? Is international law really law? Does this matter? What is international law for? What are its limitations? Who are the main actors in international law? Next, we will consider how international law is made and the various questions and puzzles that arise about law-making and the sources of international law. Particular attention will be paid to treaties which are an essential instrument in modern international relations. We will then examine how international law governs the power of the State to make its own law and to enforce it within its own territory or, at times, beyond its territory. We will also analyse the various immunities from jurisdiction that are recognised under international law. Lastly, we will examine the law of State responsibility – namely, when and how States are responsible for breaching international law, and the consequences of such breaches.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

One two-hour class per week which - depending on the number of students enrolled in the module - consists of: - One 2-hour seminar OR - Three-weekly cycle of two 2-hour lectures and one 2-hour seminar, or a variation of thereof. Learning methods include: - Essential and additional directed reading, as per distributed reading lists reproduced on Blackboard; - Engagement with current international legal developments to ensure that you can relate the material being discussed in class to contemporary controversies.

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Shaw, M (2017). International Law. 

Evans, M.D. (2018). International Law. 

Evans, M.D. (2018). Blackstone's International Law Documents. 



Mock Examination


MethodPercentage contribution
Closed book Examination  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Closed book Examination  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Closed book 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:

Books and Stationery equipment

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 Shaw, M, International Law (7th edn, Cambridge University Press, 2017) OR Evans, M.D. (ed.), International Law (5th edn, Oxford University Press, 2018)

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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