nl en

Sovereignty and Statehood


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



This course examines the role of sovereignty and statehood in today’s world order. It begins with an overview of the concept of sovereignty and continues with the history of statehood, 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: sovereignty, the legal personality of states; the criteria, forms and attributes of statehood; the recognition of emerging states; self-determination etc. The lecture material is contextualised in the second part of the course through a series of case studies. These provide practical, present-day examples of the tensions between sovereignty, statehood and international intervention.

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 actual 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 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 2022-2023 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. Students will work on assigned case studies during the second part of the course. They will be asked to present on the chosen case-study (in groups) and write an individual research assignment on a theme related to that same case-study.

Assessment Method

  • In-class participation– 10% – Ongoing Weeks 1-7

  • In-class presentation - 18% - Week 3, 4, or 5

  • Individual research paper – 32 % - Week 4, 5, or 6

  • Final exam – 40% – Week 8

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. Hanne Cuyckens,