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Research Cluster Talk | The Poseidon Project: The Past and Future Struggle to Govern the Oceans

Thursday December 1, 2022, at 12:00
Room 24.120 (First Floor). Mercè Rodoreda 24 building

David Bosco (Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, Indiana University)


In 1609, the Dutch lawyer Hugo Grotius rejected the idea that even powerful rulers could own the oceans. "A ship sailing through the sea," he wrote, "leaves behind it no more legal right than it does a track." A philosophical and legal battle ensued, but Grotius's view ultimately prevailed. To this day, "freedom of the seas" remains an important legal principle and a powerful rhetorical tool.

Yet in recent decades, freedom of the seas has eroded in multiple ways and for a variety of reasons. During the world wars of the 20th century, combatants imposed unprecedented restrictions on maritime commerce, leaving international rules in tatters. National governments have steadily expanded their reach into the oceans. More recently, environmental concerns have led to new international restrictions on high seas fishing. Today's most dangerous maritime disputes--including China's push for control of the South China Sea--are occurring against the backdrop of major changes in the way the world treats the oceans.

The history of humanity's attempt to create rules for the oceans is alive and relevant.

David Bosco is an Associate Professor at the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University (Bloomington). He focuses on the political dynamics of international organizations and international law and is currently researching a book on ocean governance. He is also continuing to research aspects of the United Nations system, with a focus on the Security Council's performance, and the International Criminal Court.

This event is hosted by IBEI's Research Cluster on Norms and Rules in International Politics.