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Foreign & International Legal Research Guide: International Law

What is International Law?

"Different people can mean very different things when they use the phrase "international law." Sometimes the phrase is meant to refer to "public international law"." This is the law state, acting in the international arena vis-a-vis, one another. In the modern world it can also involve the activities of international organizations, acting either among themselves, or with states.

Sometimes the phrase "international law" can include a reference to "private international law." This term, in turn, can have a variety of meanings. Under the traditional meaning, private international law is equivalent to "conflict of laws." Under a more modern, and expansive view, private international law covers all legal rules that regulate private relationships across national borders." (Winer, Archer, & Louise-Jaques, International Law Legal Research, KZ1234.W565 2013 )

Research Guides

The following guides for International Law research are recommended as starting points:

Subscription Databases

While limited international law content is available through large subscription services, such as Weslaw and Lexis, most researchers will incorporate specialized databases, such as the ones below.

Free Websites

Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice

Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice specifies the sources of authority for international law as:

  • conventions (treaties)
  • custom
  • general principles of law
  • decisions / publicists

Bluebook Citations

While it is not the global standard, the Bluebook 20th edition offers international law citation details through Rule 21 and Table 3.