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Sovereignty and Statehood


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



This course examines the role of sovereignty and statehood in today’s world order. It introduces the concepts of sovereignty and statehood, their intellectual and political history, covering colonialism, decolonization and self-determination. Students will gain a firm understanding of the historical, legal and political foundations of sovereignty, and the role of statehood in international law and international relations.

The lectures will introduce key concepts such as: internal and external sovereignty, the legal personality of states; the criteria, forms and attributes of statehood; the recognition of emerging states; self-determination and statehood; sovereignty as protection and sovereignty as entitlement to act internationally. The lecture material is contextualised and practically explained through a series of case studies. These provide practical, present-day examples of the tensions between sovereignty, statehood and normative international order.

Sovereignty and Statehood is the first in a trilogy of courses in the International Justice Major. It lays the foundations for success in the upper-level courses in the Major, by developing the skills necessary to form independent and well-founded opinions on the central questions of contemporary international law.

Course Objectives


  • Discuss and apply the relevant law to cases involving issues of statehood and sovereignty;

  • Analyse international treaties and judgments in order to reflect on outcomes of international disputes;

  • Develop and present sophisticated and coherent arguments both orally and in writing.


  • Understand the doctrinal origins and development of the notion of sovereignty and how it relates to statehood;

  • Comprehend the history of statehood and the impact that the eras of colonialism, decolonisation and globalisation have on sovereignty and statehood;

  • Appreciate the ramifications of changes in geopolitical landscapes;

  • Understand contributing historical and socio-political factors that shape decision-making in global affairs;

  • Identify relevant legal limitations on political decision-making practices.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of interactive lectures to accustom students with the preparatory readings and to position the weekly topics, themes, and readings in the overall context of the course. Lectures will be complemented with case-study focused seminars. The learning will be enriched by students’ group presentations addressing and expanding the range of topics covered throughout the course.

Assessment Method

  • In class participation – 11%

  • Group presentation – 19%

  • Individual research paper (linked to group presentation) - 25%

  • Final exam – 45%

Reading list

The links to the relevant readings for each of the sessions will be provided on Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Nicole Stybnarova, email TBC
Dr. Otto Spijkers,