Not available in 2020/21
IR464      Half Unit
The Politics of International Law

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Kirsten Ainley


This course is available on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Human Rights and Politics, MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Relations (Research), MSc in International Relations Theory and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

An introduction to the politics of the creation and implementation of international law, intended for non-lawyers. The course focuses on the areas of international law most relevant to International Political Theory: human rights, the use of force and international crime, and examines the increasing legalization of international politics, the tensions between international politics and international law, alternatives to international law and international law post 9/11.

Watch a short introductory video on this course:


20 hours of seminars in the LT. 4 hours of seminars in the ST.

There are no lectures on the course, but there are a number of voluntary workshops as well as a voluntary class trip to international courts in The Hague. Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy

Formative coursework

A 2000-2500 word essay.

Indicative reading

Alter, K. The New Terrain of International Law (Princeton, 2014); Armstrong, D. International Law & International Relations (Cambridge, 2007); Bass, G Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals (Princeton UP, 2000); Charlesworth, H. & Chinkin, C. The Boundaries of International Law (Manchester UP, 2000); Koskenniemi, M. The Politics of International Law (Hart, 2011); Maogoto, J. War Crimes and Realpolitik: International Justice from World War I to the 21st Century (Lynn Rienner, 2004); McGoldrick, D. From 9-11 to the Iraq War 2003: International Law in an Age of Complexity (Hart Publishing, 2004); Orford, A. Reading Humaitarian Intervention (Cambridge, 2003); Reus-Smit, C. ed. The Politics of International Law (Cambridge, 2004); Simpson, G. Law, War & Crime (Polity, 2007).


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 22.9
Merit 57.1
Pass 20
Fail 0

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills