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This subject is designed to examine the nature and structure of international legal argument in historical context and contemporary practice. Part 1 of the subject introduces students to foundational frameworks, concepts, and institutions of international law, and Part 2 considers how those frameworks, concepts, and institutions are drawn on in specific projects and regimes of international law. Throughout the subject, students will explore historical and current legal disputes involving pressing issues such as climate change, the lawfulness of resort to force, the promotion and protection of human rights, the legitimacy of investor-state dispute settlement, and the tension between national security and freedom of navigation in the law of the sea. The topics addressed in the course will include:
- The nature and sources of international law;
- The role and development of customary international law;
- The law of treaties;
- International dispute settlement through the International Court of Justice and investor-state arbitration;
- The subjects of international law;
- Jurisdiction and sovereign immunity;
- State responsibility;
- International law on the use of force;
- International human rights law;
- International environmental law and climate change;
- The law of the sea, and
- The future of international law.
The aim is to acquire an understanding of international law as an argumentative practice that takes place in a field structured by contests between states and other powerful actors, in which a great deal is at stake politically, economically, ideologically, and socially.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject, students should:
- have developed an advanced understanding of the development and structure of the international legal system and the historical and theoretical bases for public international law.
- have developed an advanced and integrated understanding of the building blocks of international legal argument.
- have the capacity to develop legal arguments in response to international disputes or complex international events, including territorial disputes, jurisdictional disputes, disputes over individual rights, disputes relating to the use of force by states and other international actors, and climate or global health emergencies.
- be able to reflect critically on the role of states, international organisations, and private actors in international law.
- be able to think creatively about the role of international lawyers as part of a broader diplomatic, political, and economic field.
On completion of the subject, students should have developed the following skills to draw on their developed understanding of Public International Law to:
- Interpret the historical context of the law in order to analyse complex contemporary politico-legal problems;
- Investigate and analyse diverse aspects of the international legal regime through the location and close reading of a range of relevant primary and secondary source materials;
- Develop well-reasoned and sophisticated international legal arguments; and
- Present these specialist arguments, analyses and principles in a written form that is appropriately investigated, structured, developed, supported and referenced.
Last updated: 12 November 2021