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Public International Law - LAW00081H

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Piergiuseppe Parisi
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Public International Law contains the principles that govern international relations. What are states? When, if ever, can they go to war? How is their sovereignty restricted? When can they be held responsible for international wrongdoing? What is the place of the individual in the global legal order? What happens when these principles are in dispute? These and more questions this module shall address, through engagement not only with doctrinal but also with critical and normative sources.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims to enable you to understand and engage critically with the sources and content of public international law, the main critical theories, categories of international rights and obligations, and subjects, institutions and officials of the international legal system.

Relying on innovative approaches to legal teaching and learning, Public International Law will be taught through a combination of the following:

  • Plenaries which will each comprise two hour ‘flipped-classroom’ sessions, during which students will engage primarily in peer-to-peer learning. Either one or both module convenors shall supervise these sessions, answering queries and encouraging group discussion.
  • Companion videos which shall run for approximately 20 minutes each, with the intention of introducing students to the basic concepts to be covered by each plenary, any key terms, and any particularly important points of debate. Individual videos shall be prepared by either one or both module convenors.
  • Seminars which shall each comprise one hour instructor-led discussions, designed to cement the knowledge and understanding gained via the flipped-classroom plenary sessions and companion videos.

Throughout the module, students will have the opportunity to engage with historical and/or contemporary case studies, such as the Russia-Ukraine war.

Module learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the sources and content of public international law, the main critical theories, categories of international rights and obligations, and subjects, institutions and officials of the international legal system;
  • Develop the ability to identify and apply sources and principles of public international law to concrete scenarios, including actual or imagined inter-state disputes;
  • Critically assess the work of international legal institutions (in particular adjudicatory and arbitral institutions), as well as their strengths and weaknesses;
  • Undertake independent research with minimal guidance, by among others, locating primary and secondary legal sources, synthesising and critically analysing their content, and using this research to present a coherent legal argument orally and in writing, individually and/or in group.

Module content

Lectures and seminars will include the following topics:

  • The History of Public International Law
  • The Sources of Public International Law
    1. Formal Sources
    2. Critical Approaches to the Sources of PIL
  • The Subjects, Objects, and Participants of Public International Law
    1. States and Peoples
    2. Individuals
  • State Responsibility within Public International Law
  • The United Nations System
  • International Law and Domestic Law

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination: Multiple choice questions online
Public International Law - Take-home individual problem
N/A 70
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Group presentation
N/A 30

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

In this module, formative assessment will be provided in lectures and seminars through Q&A sessions and 'flipping the classroom' exercises and comments by the lecturer and by fellow students. In addition, during the final week (week 10), the plenary and seminar session shall be dedicated to assessment Q&A.

Two documents specifically designed for this module aim to support students in developing and adapting their learning strategies to the requirements of this module. Part II of the Reading List for this module, provides students with general guidance on public international law research, i.e. how and where to find primary and secondary sources.

Additionally, presentation guidelines will provide detailed guidance on how to prepare the group presentation.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination: Multiple choice questions online
Public International Law - Take-home individual problem
N/A 70
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Group presentation individual resit
N/A 30

Module feedback

Feedback on the Group presentation:

  • Feedback on the group presentation will be provided on a group by group basis.
  • Feedback on the group presentation will be provided in writing within four weeks after the date of the submission of the recording.

Feedback on the Take-home individual problem:

  • Feedback on the take-home individual problem will be provided in writing within four weeks after the date of submission.

Indicative reading

Vaughan Lowe’s International Law: A Very Short Introduction (OUP 2015) offers an excellent introduction to Public International Law.

In this module, we shall draw extensively on:

  • James Crawford, Brownlie's Principles of Public International Law (9th edition, OUP 2012)
  • Malcolm Evans, International Law (5th edition, OUP 2018).
  • Paola Gaeta, Jorge E Vinuales and Salvatore Zappalá, Cassese's International Law (OUP 2020).

Other useful textbooks and collections of texts are:

  • Samantha Besson and John Tasioulas, The Philosophy of International Law (OUP 2010).
  • Ntina Tzouvala, Capitalism as Civilisation: A History of International Law (CUP 2020).
  • Anne Orford, International Law and the Politics of History (CUP 2021).
  • Oona A Hathaway and Scott J Shapiro, The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World (Allen Lane 2017).
  • Irene Watson (ed), Indigenous Peoples as Subjects of International Law (Routledge 2018).



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.