UCL Faculty of Laws

Dr Megan Donaldson

Dr Megan Donaldson

Lecturer in Public International Law

Faculty of Laws


Joined UCL
1st Sep 2019

Research summary

Megan works in public international law, its theory and history.

Collaborative work with Benedict Kingsbury has explored governance and law in contemporary international institutions, with a particular focus on transparency in international organizations; public law and constitutional values; and the use of languages of public law in global governance. Her historical work has examined the development of the international legal order over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, particularly foundational areas like the law of statehood, treaties and diplomatic relations. She is interested in methodological dimensions of the interaction between law and history: how each approaches texts and material evidence; how different scales (national, imperial, global) and strands (intellectual, social, cultural) of historical scholarship might engage differently with law; and the possibilities for more fruitful collaboration between these fields in future. 

A study in the history of treaty-making—'The Survival of the Secret Treaty: Publicity, Secrecy, and Legality in the International Order'—won the Francis Deák prize (2017) for the leading article by a younger author in the American Journal of International Law. Her article on 'The League of Nations, Ethiopia, and the Making of States' was the featured essay in Humanity (Spring 2020). An edited book (with Annabel Brett and Martti Koskenniemi), History, Politics, Law: Thinking through the State is forthcoming with CUP. 

Megan is now working on a book tracing secrecy and publicity in the international legal order (under contract with OUP). Her main future project is on the conceptualization of peace and peace-making, particularly the faultline between scholarship on imperial governance and on peace agreements between European powers (terrain sketched in 'The Boundaries of Peace-Making: British Imperial Encounters c.1700–1900', forthcoming in Weller, Retter and Varga (eds), Peace Agreements and International Law (CUP, 2021)). Other current work includes:

  • a chapter on legal thought in the early League of Nations (in collaboration with the project Laying the Foundations: The League of Nations and International Law, 1919–45, at the University of Copenhagen); 
  • an essay on the Sykes–Picot treaty of 1916 (building on prior work on secret treaties, and forthcoming in Bukovansky et al (eds), Oxford Handbook of History and International Relations); and
  • research into the unevenness of war crimes prosecutions after WWII, particularly the absence of prosecutions of Italian forces for atrocities committed in Ethiopia.

Teaching summary

In 2020–21 Megan will convene International Criminal Law (LLM), and lecture in Public International Law (LLB) and Public Law (LLB).

In 2021–22 she will convene a new LLM module on Histories of International Law, with a particular focus on histories of peace and peace-making.


Prior to postgraduate study, Megan worked in corporate litigation, and served as an Associate to Justice Hayne of the High Court of Australia. She holds an LLM (Legal Theory) and a J.S.D. (PhD-equivalent) from New York University School of Law. From 2015–19 she was Junior Research Fellow in the History of International Law at King’s College, Cambridge, and the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law. At Cambridge she was an Affiliate Lecturer of the Faculty of Law, lecturing on the use of force, and in in the history of political thought.