Thomas Sparks


working in Subproject 4 – International Federalism


Tom Sparks is a PhD student in international law at Durham University and a part time research assistant to Professor Schütze under the auspices of the Neo-Federalism project.  He graduated from the University of Durham with a First class Law degree in 2013, where he developed a keen interest in international law and, in particular, questions relating to Statehood and self-determination.  He has returned to Durham in order to undertake a PhD supported by a European Research Council studentship (2013-2017).  Tom is an assistant editor to the International Courts of General Jurisdiction project of the Oxford Reports on International Law, and in the summer of 2015 Tom was a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (Heidelberg).

Research Interests

Tom’s research interests lie in self-determination, secession, statehood and in international legal theory.  His PhD research examines the potential for self-determination to play a structural role within international law, and in particular the interplay between self-determination and other international law concepts such as sovereignty, obligation, statehood, and relative normativity.  Tom is also interested in the role of sociology and linguistics in the creation and conduct of international law.  He is supervised by Professor Robert Schütze and Dr Gleider Hernández.

Research on International Federalism

In the context of Sub-Project 4 – International Federalism, Tom researches the interface between peoples, States, and international systems.  He is particularly interested in secession and its consequences, and in the role of law in governing the formation and break-up of States.  In the course of this research he examines the definition and nature of self-determination and statehood, as well as the law on State succession and the legal obligations applicable to new States.


Book Sections

Tom Sparks, ‘The State’ in Jean d’Aspremont and Sahib Singh (eds.) Concepts for International Law: The Construction of a Discipline (Elgar, forthcoming).

Journal Articles

Tom Sparks, ‘Brexit and the Bravehearted: An Independent Scotland, the European Treaties and the Law of Succession’ (Article under review).

Tom Sparks, ‘Speaking the State: Collective Personality, Legal Subjecthood and the Creation of States in International Law’ (Article under review).

Conference papers/seminars

(2016) Who Owns the State? Secession and Self-Determination after Kosovo, SLSA Annual Conference, Lancaster University.

(2014) “He who trusts to hope builds upon thin ice”: sovereignty and the uncertain foundations of international order, Global Policy Institute seminar series, Durham University.
(2014) An (Un)Necessary Connection to Statehood? Reappraising Sovereignty in its Historical Context, Durham Law School Annual Postgraduate Conference, St. Mary’s College, Durham University.

Other publications

(2014) The International Legal Significance of the Scottish Independence Referendum – A Long View, Opinio Juris Blog