A Critical Introduction to Law - LAWS3130

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Combined Autumn and Spring Terms 4 30 (15) Emma Topham checkmark-circle


The module will introduce students to critical legal techniques grounded in critical legal and social theory. Throughout the course, concepts are introduced through socio-legal and critical investigation of selected case studies - such as new pieces of legislation, emerging political campaigns and prominent litigation - ensuring that the course maintains a focus on 'law in action'. Particular attention will be paid to developments in foreign jurisdictions and in the international arena. Accordingly, case studies will alter from year to year, and draw heavily on research projects on-going in the Law School. The course has a heavy focus on primary legal materials and core critical texts, but will also draw on film, museum artefacts, art and literature as appropriate.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 57
Private Study Hours: 243
Total Study Hours: 300


Compulsory to all single and joint honours undergraduate Law courses (EXCLUDING the certificate in Law course)

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
The module will be assessed by 100% coursework as follows:

Coursework - short critical essay (1000 words) - 10%
Coursework - case commentary (2000 words) – 30%
Coursework - essay (3000 words) – 60%

Reassessment methods
Reassessment instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

• W. Brown and J. Halley, Left Legalism/Left Critique (Duke University Press, 2002)
• M. Davies, Asking the Law Question (LBC, 2002)
• Gearey, W. Morrison and R. Jago, The Politics of the Common Law (Routledge, 2009)
• I Grigg-Spall and P Ireland, The Critical Lawyer's Handbook (Pluto; 1992)
• W Mansell, B Meteyard and A Thomson, A Critical Introduction to Law, 3rd edition (Cavendish; 2004)
• Penner and Melissaris, McCoubray and White's Textbook on Jurisprudence (Oxford, 2012)
• M. Stone et al (eds) New Critical Legal Thinking (Routledge, 2012)
• Veitch et al, Jurisprudence: Themes and Concepts (Routledge, 2012)
• I Ward, Introduction to Critical Legal Theory, 2nd edition (Cavendish, 2004)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the basic concepts and principles at issue in contemporary critical and analytical legal theory.
2. Demonstrate a capacity to apply basic critical legal concepts to contemporary contexts and debates.
3. Demonstrate a sociological, historical and political perspective towards claims about law's objectivity and neutrality.
4. Understand law as an instrument of politics and ideology.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Research a legal issue to find relevant principles and concepts, and to investigate those principles and concepts critically and analytically.
2. Identify flaws and weaknesses in argument.
3. Distinguish and rank sources of knowledge and evidence.
4. Use library and web resources, including journal articles, to research an issue.
5. Present a sustained critical analysis of a legal issue in writing.
6. Work independently in pursuit of a research and composition assignment.
7. Consider critically and reflectively their own learning.


  1. Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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