Not available in 2020/21
LL4AE      Half Unit
Rethinking International Law: International Legal Thought

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Gerry Simpson NAB 6.13


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time) 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 part of the Public International Law specialism.

This course is capped at 30 students. Students must apply through Graduate Course Choice on LSE for You.

Course content

This course can be thought of as an argument that international law is a literary and historical project that has come to represent the “last of the humanities”: a space (enclaval, utopian, imaginative) where a different politics might be conjured – even perhaps advanced and defended  – amidst the drive to technique and professionalisation often/sometimes found in the humanities in general.  So, we begin with this idea before tracing a history commencing in 1919 with the apparent revitalisation of international law (and the re-colonisation of The Levant) at Versailles and in Geneva (Weeks 2 and 3).  In Weeks 4 to 6, we turn to the Cold War as a legal project and international law as a Cold War project by de-centring the UN (Week 4), re-inhabiting nuclear war as a lawful moment (Week 5) and understanding neutrality or non-alignment as an international legal doctrine and a Cold War ideal.  The course ends with three thematic classes on international law as lived experience, international law as historical (anti-) method, and international law as imaginative bet.


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

Students are expected to have done the set reading and be willing to participate in seminar discussion.

There will be a Reading Week in Week 6.

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word essay.

Indicative reading

Reading lists will be provided for each seminar on Moodle. Readings likely to be set include a selection of international legal texts (including work-in-progress and "new authors") and readings from the fields of intellectual history, 18th century literature and political theory. The key works, apart from the usual contemporary international lawyers, are by Carl Schmitt, Friedrich Schiller and David Scott


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

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: Law

Total students 2019/20: 4

Average class size 2019/20: 4

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills