LL475      Half Unit
Terrorism and the Rule of Law

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Conor Gearty NAB.6.11


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in Human Rights and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is available across all courses and potentially suitable for all but is particularly designed for LLM, MSc Conflict Studies, MSc Human Rights students.

This course is capped at 60 students. 

Course content

This course will provide a theoretical and historical introduction to the concept of terrorism. It will critically consider definitions of terrorism, and analyse the relationship between terrorism and the right to rebel, and the right to engage in civil disobedience. The historical development of the idea of 'terrorism' from the late eighteenth century through to the present will then be traced, with the emphasis on locating the practice of political terror in its political and military/quasi-military context. The role of international law generally and international human rights law in particular in the context of terrorism and anti-terrorism action will be considered in detail. The course will teach the material in context, so the subject will be analysed by reference to particular situations where necessary, eg Northern Ireland, the Palestine/Israel conflict and the post 11 September 'war on terror'. The recent extension of state controls from terrorism to ‘extremism’ will be analysed. The aim of the course is to give the student a good critical understanding of this most controversial of subjects, and also to impart an understanding of the role of law in shaping the fields of terrorism and of counter-terrorism.


20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

There will be a reading week in week 6.

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word essay.

Indicative reading

There is no set text though reliance is made on the work of authors such as Richard English, Adrian Guelke, Lawrence Freedman, Igor Primoratz, Paul Wilkinson and the course teacher Conor Gearty. Students will receive a detailed Reading list for each topic, which will include legal cases from time to time. Two recommended texts are Gearty, Liberty and Security (Polity Press, February 2013) and English, Terrorism How to respond (Oxford 2009).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.

This subject is examined by one two-hour paper, composed of at least six questions of which two must be attempted. There will be a fifteen minute reading time during which the exam paper may be written on.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2018/19: 63

Average class size 2018/19: 32

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills