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Durham University

Durham Law School

Staff profile

Dr Matthew Nicholson, LLB (Sheffield, 2003), PgDip ('Bar Vocational Course', Northumbria, 2004), LLM (UCL, 2008), PhD (UCL, 2013), FHEA

Assistant Professor in International Law in the Durham Law School

Contact Dr Matthew Nicholson (email at


Matthew joined Durham Law School as Lecturer in International Law in September 2016. Before joining Durham he worked at the University of Southampton as Lecturer in Public International Law (2012-2016). From September 2019 he is the Chair of Durham Law School's LLB Board of Examiners. 

Past experience includes work as a Teaching Fellow (LLB, Public International Law) at UCL (2010-11) and Research Assistant at the LSE (Grantham Research Institute / ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, 2009-10). Matthew completed pupillage in London and subsequently worked at the London office of a national law firm (he no longer practices). He is a member of the Academic Review Board of the Cambridge International Law Journal (formerly the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law) and served as an External Examiner at SOAS (University of London) from 2017 to 2019. 

Matthew's work has been published in specialist and generalist law journals with international reach. His 2015 article 'The Political Unconscious of the English Foreign Act of State and Non-Justiciability Doctrine(s)' won the International and Comparative Law Quarterly's 'Young Scholar Prize' (see for details). He has also published in Law and Critique, the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, the German Law Journal, and Law and Literature. In January 2018 he gave a Lauterpacht Centre Friday Lecture (Cambridge University - see 

His research and teaching interests cover all aspects of international law, with particular interests in international legal theory (see the 2016 Law and Critique article, for example), international environmental law and policy (climate change in particular), the relationship between national and international law (see the 2015 ICLQ article), international human rights law (see the 2016 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly article), and the law on the use of force.

From January to September 2018 Matthew served as the Law School's 'ECR Co-Ordinator' (supporting and representing 'Early Career Researcher' colleagues in Law School management, and serving on the Law School's Management Committee in that capacity), and from July 2017 to October 2018 he served as the Law School's representative on the Council of the Society of Legal Scholars. Matthew is the Co-Convenor of 'Law and Global Justice at Durham' (international law research cluster), a role he also filled in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

In September 2018, working with Dr. Kate Grady (SOAS), Matthew co-convened a postgraduate colloquium on critical approaches to international law. This is intended to be a regular event, altenating between London and Durham, at which postgraduate scholars share their research with, and receive advice and feedback from, more established scholars.The next colloquium will be held in Durham in April 2020. 

Research Interests

  • International Law
  • International Legal Theory
  • Legal Theory (in particular, critical approaches)
  • International Environmental Law
  • Foreign Relations Law (the relationship between national and international law)
  • International Human Rights Law
  • International Law on the Use of Force
  • Law and Literature
  • Frankfurt School Critical Theory (in particular, the work of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno)

Selected Publications

Book review

Chapter in book

Journal Article



Other (Digital/Visual Media)


  • Nicholson, Matthew (2018), 'Psychoanalyzing International Law(yers)', Lauterpacht Centre Friday Lecture (Cambridge University, by invitation). Cambridge, England.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2018), 'Towards a Representational International Law', Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Law Faculty) Seminar (by invitation). Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2018), Forthcoming: 'Resistance to Universality: International Law's Post-Universal Moment', European Society of International Law Conference (2018). Manchester, England.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2017), 'The Horniman Walrus' (a 'work in progress' version of my 2017 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly article), Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference. Newcastle, England.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2016), 'Dress Code Formal or, Hegemony and International Legal Strategy', 25th Annual SLS-BIICL Conference on Theory and International Law: Beyond our comfort zone? Situating the authority of international lawyers, institutions, and other international actors. British Institute of International and Comparative Law, London.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2015), 'The Political Unconscious of the English Foreign Act of State and Non-Justiciability Doctrine(s)' (presenting a 'work in progress' version of my 2015 ICLQ paper of the same title), International Law Association (British Branch) Spring Conference 2015. University of Essex, England.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2015), 'Walter Benjamin and the Re-imageination of International Law' (presenting my 2016 Law and Critique article), Institute for Global Law and Policy: The Conference 2015. Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2014), 'A History of Faith in International Environmental Law', Theorising and Historicising International Law and the Environment (workshop). University of Keele, England.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2014), 'Control, Representation, Violence and the Re-Imagination of International Law' (presenting a 'work in progress' version of my 2016 Law and Critique article), Durham Global Policy Institute Seminar Series. Durham University, England.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2011), 'Beyond Systems', Towards a Radical International Law (conference). London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2011), 'Decon-figuring Borders, Re-Bordering Figures', Melbourne Law School Institute for International Law and the Humanities Seminar. Melbourne Law School, Australia.
  • Nicholson, Matthew (2010), 'Fragmentation, Lawyers and Choice', LSE-SOAS Postgraduate International Law Colloquium. SOAS, London.

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