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Public International Law: Introduction

This guide highlights key resources for international law research.

Recommended Publications

The titles included here will provide expert background information on the general sources and concepts of international law; however, they also represent the teachings of "highly qualified publicists" as provided for in Article 38 of the ICJ statute.  For earlier works covering the period of 1911-1950, consult the Classics of International Law, many of which are also reprinted in the Hein Legal Classics Library.  

If you do not have a grounding in international law, Mark W. Janis's International Law (6th ed. 2012) and Wade Mansell and Karen Openshaw's International Law (2013) are good foundational treatises for you to consult before consulting the writings of "highly qualified publicists" as they assume a certain level of knowledge of the reader.  Also, the freely accessible ASIL guide to Public International Law is highly recommended.

Not included here are the writings of experts in specialized topics of international law.  For example, international law scholar Cherif M. Bassiouni's writing on international criminal law, or international lawyer Gary Born's writings on commercial arbitration.  To find writings on specialized topics of international law, see the boxes on Finding Treatises and Articles.

Finding Treatises at UH

OneSearch/PRIMO is the discovery tool at UH that allows you to search our library collections, including e-journals and e-books, using one search box. Users can change the defaults to suit research needs.  For example, if you have the title of a book or article, limit your search to the title field.

You can search using KEYWORDS or a SUBJECT search., it is important to search by the name of the country or, if your results are poor, by the region in which the country is located.

To conduct KEYWORD searches, it is recommended to use compound search terms because the database is extremely large.  Basic searches will yield too many results.

For example, instead of just searching for "indigenous peoples", search for "indigenous peoples" and "self-determination"




Sources of International Law

The Statute of the International Court of Justice is annexed to the Charter of the United Nations. The main object of the Statute is to organize the composition and the functioning of the Court; however, Article 38 of the Statute is customarily cited as the authority for defining the sources that constitute the body of law we call public international law.

Article 38 advises the Court to consider these sources as evidence of international law:

a. international conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states;

b. international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law;

c. the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations;

d. subject to the provisions of Article 59 [of the Statute], judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law.



Charter of the United Nations, June 26, 1945, 59 Stat. 1031, T.S. No. 993, 3 Bevans 1153

Statute of the International Court of Justice, June 26, 1945, 59 Stat. 1055, T.S. No. 993 at 25, 3 Bevans 1178


See United Nations page in this guide for more information about U.N. materials and research.

See International Courts page in this guide for more information about the ICJ and other international courts, and case law research on international law.


Periodical Indexes and Full Text Databases

In this category of materials you will find indexes and full text database for law journals and policitical science materials including policy pieces, and working papers, 

Research Guides & Encyclopaedias