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Private International Law - LAW00064M

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Nicolas Rennuy
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

How far does English law extend to people, companies and transactions located abroad? Is it possible to escape the reach of English law, simply by partly moving abroad, or even by contractually agreeing that foreign law will apply? When should well-advised actors (e.g. retailers) be allowed to shop for the laws that suit their needs best, possibly at the expense of others (e.g. consumers)?

These questions gain in importance as globalisation marches on. English and EU private international law provide answers. They determine (i) when English courts can hear a case; (ii) whether they should apply English law or foreign law; and (iii) whether foreign judgments can be recognised and enforced in England.

This module may appeal to students interested in international transactions or in the way the law manages globalisation, one of the major challenges of the 21st century.

Professional requirements


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module provides a grounding in private international law. It looks at the general part of private international law and at a number of case studies relating mostly to contracts. Cases with a foreign element raise interesting normative questions, which we will explore. For instance, should an English judge apply foreign law, even though it leads to an outcome that is contrary to the result that would have obtained under English law? Can a claimant sue in faraway courts, thereby putting the defendant at a significant disadvantage? Can a party enforce a judgment in England, even if it was obtained in a country with dubious procedural standards? While private international law is a mixture of English and EU law, students will be encouraged to think 'beyond the State', and to reflect on how English legal and policy choices can be realised in cases with a foreign element. Our discussions will be enriched by insights from other jurisdictions and from law and economics.

The module will be taught through lectures, seminars and self-directed study. The seminars will consist of case studies, normative discussions, and non-assessed student presentations.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate an in-depth knowledge and understanding of selected aspects of private international law, including a critical awareness of current issues and developments in the subject
  2. apply rules to actual and fictitious scenarios
  3. identify and critically evaluate competing interests and values, drawing upon doctrinal, comparative and economic insights
  4. reflect upon the roles and strategies of private and public actors
  5. develop coherent written arguments on selected contemporary topics within private international law

Module content

Topics will include:

  • jurisdiction under EU law and under the traditional English rules
  • the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments under English law and EU law
  • the choice of law: general issues; varieties of conflict rules; contracts

Themes will include:

  • the tension between conflicts justice (designating the legal order that is most closely connected to the case) and substantive justice (designating the ‘best’ legal order, or favouring certain parties);
  • party autonomy and its limits (in particular relating to the interests of consumers and employees);
  • the private goals of private international law (e.g. protecting legitimate expectations) and its public goals (e.g. allocating regulatory competence in an appropriate manner);
  • regulatory competition (legal orders compete for mobile actors) and regulatory neutrality (immobile and mobile actors compete on the basis of a shared legal framework);
  • unity and diversity (the unification of private law; the unification of private international law; private international law as an instrument for coordinating legal diversity).


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 Words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

A number of broad essay topics will be provided in the first half of Term 2. Students will write an essay on one of those topics or on another topic of their choice. They will have the opportunity of submitting an essay plan, on which they will receive written feedback.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 Words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive informal feedback in lectures and seminars.

Individualised written feedback on the essay plan and the essay will be provided respectively within two weeks of submission and in Term 3.

Indicative reading

Cheshire, North & Fawcett, Private International Law (15th edn, OUP 2017)

Hartley, Trevor C., International Commercial Litigation: Text, Cases and Materials on Private International Law (2nd edn, CUP 2015)

Ribstein, Larry E. and O’Hara, Erin A., The Law Market (OUP 2009)

Symeonides, Symeon C., Codifying Choice of Law Around the World: An International Comparative Analysis (OUP 2014)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.