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History and Theory of International Norms and Institutions




Admissions requirements

Required: Sovereignty & Statehood


We are reminded daily of the fragility of the norm-based international world-order. How did it develop and what are the philosophical views underpinning it? This course traces the history of philosophical reflection on international norms and institutions and their development from the medieval period to today. The course combines a focus on significant authors from that history, such as Aquinas, Grotius, Vattel, Kant, Kelsen, and Morgenthau, with attention to a more wide-ranging secondary literature. To better understand the nature of international norms and institutions we closely read (selections of) seminal works by these authors. We also attend to development of significant adjacent concepts such as territorial jurisdiction, sovereignty, punishment, and war from a philosophical perspective. Engagement with secondary literature will also allow us to critically reflect on the colonial background of the development of international law, the post-war global governance architecture, and the critiques of Eurocentricity in the historiography of that development.

Course objectives

After successful completion of the course students, in terms of skills:

  • are able to critically engage with these arguments by identifying strengths and weaknesses and by comparing and contrasting them

  • are able to engage in critical engagement with the historiography of the philosophy of international law
    After successful completion of the course students, in terms of knowledge:

  • are able to reproduce and understand with the philosophical arguments of significant philosophers on international norms and institutions

  • are able to relate this philosophical reflection to relevant non-philosophical material acquired elsewhere in the major ‘International Justice’.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course adopts an interactive seminar format.


  • Participation: 15%

  • Presentation: 15%

  • Mid-term essay: 30%

  • Written examination with short essay questions: 40%

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The readings will be made available on blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. L. Apeldoorn