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The "common law method": British approaches to the development of international law

Hovell, Devika (2023) The "common law method": British approaches to the development of international law. British Yearbook of International Law. ISSN 0068-2691

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Identification Number: 10.1093/bybil/brad014


For better or for worse, the ‘English school’ or ‘British tradition’ of international law has eluded systematization or definition. This article examines the responses of a UK legal adviser, a British judge on the International Court of Justice and influential scholars to a particular case, the Corfu Channel case. In doing so, it is possible to identify clear synergies in the mainstream legal method of British international lawyers. It should not be surprising that this method follows in the common law tradition, displaying its three key hallmarks of connection to social practice, focus on courts and an anti-theoretical tendency. Identity and analysis of these characteristics helps us to understand the distinctive contribution of British approaches to international law and the work this ‘common law method’ has done in strengthening and shaping international law. Identifying these characteristics is also important in order to understand the more problematic implications of their application in the international legal context. The common law method has consequences for the structure and direction of the international legal system, including the parameters of its community, the site of its authority and the role of theory in its development. Reflection on these strengths and weaknesses helps us better understand British contributions to international law. Paradoxically, the route to a more universal international law requires us first to understand the ways in which it is plural.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > KD England and Wales
K Law > KZ Law of Nations
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2023 12:24
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 13:45

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