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Tom Sparks

LL.B, PhD (Dunelm), Senior Research Fellow
Tel. +49 (6221) 482-256

Main Fields of Research:

Public international law; Statehood, Sovereignty and Self-Determination; Creation of States; Legal Theory; International Environmental Law

Academic Career:

  • Since 2018: Senior Research Fellow at the MPIL
  • 2013-2017: University of Durham, Ph.D.; Thesis title: Towards a Human-Centered International Law: Self-Determination and the Structure of the International Legal System.  European Research Council Studentship.
  • 2010-2013: University of Durham, Bachelor of Laws with Honours, First Class.

Recent Publications

  • The State. In: Concepts for International Law: Contributions to Disciplinary Thought, Jean d'Aspremont, Sahib Singh (eds.). Edward Elgar, Cheltenham 2019. Publisher's website
  • Statehood in an Era of Sinking Islands. In: Routledge Handbook of Climate Justice, Tahseen Jafry (ed.). Routledge, Abingdon 2019, 83-99. Publisher's website
  • The Protection of Animals through Human Rights. The Case-Law of the European Court of Human Rights. In: Studies in Global Animal Law, Anne Peters (ed.). Springer, Heidelberg 2020, 153-171. Springer Open Access


Working Papers

  • The Place of the Environment in State of Nature Discourses: Reassessing Nature, Property and Sovereignty in the Anthropocene. MPIL Reserach Paper No. 2020-10, 26 March 2020, Forthcoming in Mark Somos and Anne Peters (eds.), The State of Nature: Histories of an Idea (Brill). doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3561671. SSRN
  • The Humanisation of Provisional Measures? Plausibility and the Interim Protection of Rights before the ICJ. MPIL Research Paper No. 2019-20, 18 October 2019. doi: (with Mark Somos). SSRN

Further Publications

  • Book Review: Kjeldgaard-Pedersen, Astrid: The International Legal Personality of the Individual, Oxford, 2018. In: German Yearbook of International Law, 61, 594-597, 2018.


11 Sep 2019 - 15 Sep 2019

Whose Atmosphere? Sovereignty, Acquisition, and Responsibility for Atmospheric Harms

ESIL Annual Conference


07 Jul 2019 - 13 Jul 2019

Protection of Animals through Human Rights: the Case-Law of the European Court of Human Rights

XXVIII IVR World Congress


16 May 2019 - 17 May 2019

Beyond “Internal” and “External”: Legitimacy and Legality in Self-Determination’s Claims

'Self-Determination of Peoples in Historical Perspective' Workshop


11 Apr 2019


Martins Paprinskis, A.P. Sereni Lecture, 'The Indispensable Third Party Principle in International Law'


07 Mar 2019 - 08 Mar 2019

Secessionary Self-Determination in the Contemporary World: Legality and Legitimacy

'We the People' Workshop


17 Jul 2017 - 21 Jul 2017

Whose Claim, to What Right? A Taxonomy of the Self-Determination Genus

XXVIII IVR World Congress


17 Jul 2017 - 21 Jul 2017

Beetles in Boxes and Rubies Called Blue: The Semiotics of the International Legal Concept of "State"

XXVIII IVR World Congress


08 Mar 2017

An Imponderable Future? Post-Brexit Scotland, IndyRef2, and the European Treaties

International Law Seminar Series

University of Edinburgh

05 Apr 2015 - 07 Apr 2015

Who Owns the State? Secession and Self-Determination after Kosovo

Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference


02 Dec 2014

"He who trusts to hope builds upon thin ice": Sovereignty and the Uncertain Foundations of International Order

Global Policy Institute Seminar Series



Summer Term 2019

Heidelberg International Law Colloquium: Introduction to Climate Law

Summer term 2018

Heidelberg International Law Colloquium: The State in International Law: Creation, Destruction, Deconstruction


  • 2018: Winner, Global Policy North Research Network thesis prize for the dissertation "Towards a Human-Centered International Law" (Durham University, 2017)


 Research Funding

  • 2013-2017: European Research Council PhD Studentship (£13726 pa)
  • 2019-2020: Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung der Forderung der Wissenschaten, support for Individual in International Law Workshop (20.000€ - with Anne Peters)
  • 2019-2020: Deutsch Forschungs-Gemeinschaft, support for Individual in International Law Workshop (9.000€ - with Anne Peters)