Skip to main content

Public International Law: Introduction to Public International Law research

This guide will help you find resources for researching public international law.

The Effect of International Law on Domestic Law

Books on this topic are shelved at KC 86 and KC 334.1 on Level 5 of the Law Library. Also check the catalogue for E-books.

A book that usefully compares many countries is:

International Legal Research Tutorial

This step by step tutorial is from Duke University.

Books on Researching International Law

What is public international law?

Public International Law is composed of the laws, rules, and principles of general application that deal with the conduct of nation states and international organisations among themselves as well as the relationships between nation states and international organisations with persons, whether natural or juridical. Public International Law is sometimes called the "law of nations" or just simply International Law. It should not be confused with Private International Law, which is primarily concerned with the resolution of conflict of national laws, determining the law of which country is applicable to specific situations. 

History of International Law Timeline

The History of International Law Timeline (free from Oxford Academic) is a concise map of 'the broad history of public international law with particular attention paid to the signing of major treaties, the foundation of fundamental institutions, the birth of major figures in international law and milestones in the development of some of the field’s best-known doctrines'. The timeline begins with the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. 

International Law - Historical Documents

The Consolidated Treaty Series is a comprehensive collection of treaties of all nations concluded between 1648-1919. It is also known as Parry's Treaty Series and has been reproduced online as Oxford Historical Treaties (UniMelb staff and students only) and is also available in print on Level 4 of the Law Library. For more information about treaties, see the treaties tab in this Guide.

Guide Author

This Research Guide is created and maintained by Robin Gardner, Law Research Service, Melbourne Law School. Please contact Robin at with corrections, suggestions or comments about the Guide.

A great place to start - Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias

The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (UniMelb staff & student access) is a comprehensive online resource containing over 1600 scholarly articles on every aspect of public international law.

Parry & Grant brings together terminology and descriptive information on international law. Its alphabetical arrangement offer concise but substantial information on essentials of international law such as: Legal terms as used in international law; Significant doctrines; Prominent cases, decisions and arbitration; Important incidents; Judicial and literary figures; Treaties and conventions; Organizations and institutions; and Acronyms. This is available in both print and as an e-book.

Oxford Bibliographies - International Law (UniMelb staff & student access) provides concise and authoritative scholarly commentary and bibliographical guidance on many international law topics, arranged alphabetically. More on the topics included.

Books on the History of International Law

Citing international law documents using AGLC3

Part IV (pp. 121-196) of the Australian Guide to Legal Citation  provides information on citing:

  • Treaties
  • United Nations Materials
  • International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of International Justice
  • International Arbitral and Tribunal Decisions
  • International Criminal Tribunals and Courts
  • International Economic Materials
  • European Supranational Materials