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Unit information: General Principles of International Law in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name General Principles of International Law
Unit code LAWDM0026
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. McConnell
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit introduces students to the basic features and building blocks of the international legal system. The unit considers where international law comes from (the sources of international law, including the law of treaties); the bodies that are objects of international legal regulation (international personality, including issues of statehood and recognition); the principles by which a state can exercise its authority over other individuals and states (jurisdiction); the situations in which a state does not exercise such jurisdiction (including state, head of state and diplomatic immunity); and looks at the circumstances in which a state will be liable under international law both for its own acts and the acts of those subject to its jurisdiction (state responsibility). All these issues will be examined in the light of current concerns within the international community. Through all of this runs the general question of what is international law for?

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, students are expected to be able to achieve the following:

  • identify and understand the general principles of international law
  • critically analyse these general principles from a variety of perspectives
  • apply general principles to hypothetical problems
  • use the case-law of the International Court as a guide in advising governments and international organizations.

Teaching details

This unit is taught by way of 20 lectures (approx.), 10 two-hour seminars and 2 assessment preparation and feedback sessions. Lectures are delivered jointly to students on the related undergraduate unit.

Assessment Details

Summative: a 2000 word essay (33%) will assess the candidate's ability to research a topic within the scope of this unit. The remaining Intended Learning Outcomes will be assessed in a 3 hour written examination (67%). Both assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit in the context of topics selected by the examiners.

Formative: students should do one formative assessment (this will usually be 1 x 1500 word essay).

Reading and References

Evans (ed.), International Law (4th Ed., 2014)