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Unit information: General Principles of International Law in 2020/21

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Unit name General Principles of International Law
Unit code LAWD20041
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Capps
Open unit status Not open




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


This is an introductory unit in public international law provides some of the fundamental skills and knowledge required to study more specialist aspects of international law. The unit also stands alone as an overview of some foundational issues in international law. It considers a number of key inter-related questions: in particular, what is international law and why does it matter? To whom does it apply? Where are the rules of this legal order to be found, and how are they enforced? The unit is designed to make students think critically about the structure, sources, and function of international law and the relevance of these issues to contemporary international problems. In the unit, students will be invited to answer these questions by going through the following examinable topics: the sources of international law, including especially the law of treaties; international legal personality; the relationship between international law and domestic law; jurisdiction; immunities; state responsibility; and, the rules of international law governing the use of force.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  • Comprehend the institutional structure of international law, the law-making and decision-making processes;
  • Comprehend and analyse the principles of international law;
  • Analyse how international relates to national law;
  • Evaluate proposals for the reform of international law.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Details

1 x summative assessment: Timed Open Book Assessment with a specified word count (100%)

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

There are several for you to choose from, including:

  • Evans, International Law (4th ed, OUP 2014);
  • Dixon, McCorquodale and Williams, Cases and materials on International Law (5th ed, OUP 2011);
  • Dixon, Textbook on International Law (7th ed, OUP 2013);
  • Shaw, International Law (7th ed, CUP 2014);
  • Harris, Cases and Materials on International Law, (8th ed, Sweet & Maxwell 2015);
  • Crawford, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law (8th ed, OUP 2012).