Document Type




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Oxford Academic

Source Publication

European Journal of International Law

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The compulsory study of international law is a universal component of legal education in some states but extremely uncommon or non-existent in others. This article uses global data and statistical methods to test a number of conceivable explanations for this puzzling feature of international society. In contrast to much of the empirical literature on state behaviour in relation to international law, we find that functionalist and socio-political variables carry little explanatory power and that historical variables – specifically, legal tradition and regional geography – instead account for the overwhelming majority of the global pattern. We explore potential explanations for these findings and discuss implications for scholars, legal educators and policy-makers.

Since the mid-20th century, international law has exhibited an overtly self-promotional quality; in addition to articulating primary and secondary rules of conduct, the law has called upon states to cultivate public knowledge about those rules. Numerous resolutions from the United Nations (UN) General Assembly have prodded states to foster the study of international law in higher education.1 A resolution from 1992, for example, invited national governments to ‘encourage their educational institutions to introduce courses in international law for students studying law, political science, social sciences and other relevant disciplines’.2 Similarly, a handful of major multilateral treaties require parties to propagate treaty norms.3 Parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, for instance, ‘undertake … to disseminate the text of [the conventions] as widely as possible in their programmes of military and, if possible, civil instruction, so that the principles thereof may become known to the entire population’.4 These efforts reflect a standard assumption that education can be a powerful mechanism of norm socialization and maintenance.


Accepted version. European Journal of International Law, Vol. 30, No. 2 (May 2019): 481-508. DOI. © 2019 Oxford Academic. Used with permission.

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