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Study information

International Law, Conflict and Strategy

Module titleInternational Law, Conflict and Strategy
Module codeLAW3146
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Aurel Sari (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The purpose of this module is to explore how international law regulates war and other forms of conflict at the international level. It provides you with an opportunity to study in depth the rules of international law governing conflict and security, the legal and policy challenges presented by contemporary security threats and the impact that strategic considerations have on the development and application of international law. While the module focuses on the legal dimension of conflict, it benefits from the contribution of colleagues from the Strategy and Security Institute, who will help to put the law into its broader strategic context.


The first part of the module will provide you with a basic foundation in international law and strategic thought. The second part will ask you to engage with three themes. First, the rules regulating the use of force in international relations, as found in the United Nations Charter and in other sources of international law. Second, the rules governing the conduct of hostilities, also known as international humanitarian law. Third, the challenges that technological development and the changing character of warfare pose in both of these fields. Each of these themes will examine a range of cases, conflicts and contemporary challenges—such as the global war on terror, foreign intervention in civil war, cyber operations, drone warfare, hybrid threats, automated weapons and accountability for mass atrocities—to explore the competing legal and policy considerations involved. The module will conclude by revisiting the relationship between international law and strategy from a practical perspective and draw some lessons.


Module aims - intentions of the module

The module draws on the research interests and expertise of the Law School and the Strategy and Security Institute to provide you with a unique insight into the interaction between international law and strategy. It allows you to study some of the most pressing contemporary legal and security dilemmas and thereby gain a detailed understanding of the rules of international conflict and security law and their application in practice.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. demonstrate a critical understanding of the key features of the international legal order and detailed knowledge of selected aspects of international conflict and security law;
  • 2. demonstrate a critical understanding of the role that law plays in the international security environment and how strategic considerations shape the development and application of international law.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. demonstrate a critical understanding of the role of law and legal argument as a constraining and enabling factor for political decision-making;
  • 4. apply legal knowledge to complex problems and apply judgement when presented with competing policy imperatives;
  • 5. select and process relevant information from a broad range of diverse primary and secondary materials.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. prepare analytically compelling work with limited guidance that employs appropriate interpretative techniques and presents a nuanced line of argument;
  • 7. engage in debate effectively and develop complex arguments and opinions with limited guidance;
  • 8. demonstrate the ability to work independently, within a limited time frame, to complete a specified task.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the precise content may vary from year to year, including in response to current developments, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover all or some of the following topics. Some content may be delivered by visiting lecturers.


The Context: Law, Conflict and Strategy

  • foundations of public international law
  • foundations of strategy


I. The Use of Force

  • the rules governing the use of force
  • collective security and the United Nations
  • the Global War on Terror: from Afghanistan to ‘unwilling and unable’


           II. The Conduct of Hostilities

  • the law of armed conflict
  • battlefield status and military objectives
  • precautions in attack and collateral damage


III. Current Challenges and Developments

  • cyber warfare, killer robots, artificial intelligence and drones
  • grey zone conflict
  • international criminal justice and its alternatives


Law, Conflict and Strategy: Some Lessons

  • a practical perspective
  • some conclusions

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities4422 x 2 hour Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities96 x 1.5 hour Workshops
Guided independent study155Individual reading and lecture preparation
Guided independent study32Seminar preparation
Guided independent study 40Summative assessment preparation
Guided independent study 20Formative assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1,000 words1-7Individual written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay251,500 words1-7Individual written feedback, with supplementary oral feedback available
Examination (take-home, open book)752 hours intended duration (within a 24-hour submission window)1-8Individual written feedback, with supplementary oral feedback available.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (1,500 words)1-7August/September re-assessment
Examination (take-home, open book)Examination (take home, open book)1-8August/September re-assessment

Re-assessment notes


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


D. Patrikarakos, War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century (2017)


C. Ford and W. Williams (eds), Complex Battlespaces: The Law of Armed Conflict and the Dynamics of Modern Warfare (2019)


N. White and C. Henderson (eds), Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law (2013)


T. Farrell, Unwinnable: Britain’s War in Afghanistan, 2001–2014 (2017)


D. Kilcullen, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla (2015)


V. Lowe, International Law (2007)


D. Armstrong, ‎T. Farrell, ‎H. Lambert, International Law and International Relations (2012)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Key words search

international law, conflict, strategy, international security

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date