A vibrant exploration of past and present controversies surrounding control of the world's oceans.
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.
As David Bosco shows in The Poseidon Project, the history of humanity's attempt to create rules for the oceans is alive and relevant. Tracing the roots of the law of the sea and the background to current maritime disputes, he shows that building effective ocean rules while preserving maritime freedoms remains a daunting task. Bosco analyzes how fragile international institutions and determined activists are struggling for relevance in a world still dominated by national governments. As maritime tensions develop, The Poseidon Project will serve as an essential guide to the continuing challenge of ocean governance.
1. The Global Ocean
2. Britannia's Rules
3. The Unraveling
4. Toward the Treaty
5. The Ocean Constitution
6. Jockeying for Position
7. The Convention in Operation
8. System Under Strain
Conclusion: Sea Changes
Sources and Further Reading
David Bosco is Associate Professor of International Studies at Indiana University's Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of previous books on the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court, Rough Justice (OUP 2014) and Five to Rule Them All (OUP 2009). He also writes the Multilateralist blog. Previously, he served as a senior editor at Foreign Policy magazine and worked in post-war Bosnia on refugee issues.
"David Bosco has produced something remarkable, a lively and informative account and analysis of efforts to manage our engagement with the ocean. Practitioners and academics will find The Poseidon Project clear and comprehensive; general readers will come away startled by triumphs and failures that have marked – and continue to mark – this ongoing chapter in human history."
– David Balton, Former United States Ambassador for Oceans and Fisheries
"David Bosco's The Poseidon Project is a vivid and energetic examination of the development of the law of the sea. Casting both familiar and more obscure episodes of maritime history in a new light, Bosco reveals the extent to which human responses to particular events drive change in the international arena. In so doing, he pulls back the curtain on how governments try to bring order to the ocean and the world."
– Lincoln Paine, author of The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World
"Bosco has written a terrific book that illuminates the challenges of maritime governance today. With lucid, insightful, and engaging prose, Bosco documents how unfettered freedom of the seas has given way to greater national control and international jurisdiction over the world's waters."
– M. Taylor Fravel, Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and Director, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"Bosco is unparalleled in his ability to weave together ancient and modern history, law, and politics and in moving from the big picture questions and issues to small but deeply illuminating details of the individuals, ideas, and events that shaped the evolution of ocean governance. It's rare to find a scholarly book that is so engaging to read."
– Tamar Gutner, American University
"This book is a real enrichment to the existing scholarly literature. The fundamental and century-old conflict between freedom of the seas and efforts to control maritime space is not presented by way of formalistic analysis of diplomatic conferences and legal instruments, but on the basis of historical developments, political struggles and current conflicts. By focusing on their contexts, ocean governance and the law of the sea thus become accessible in terms of their backgrounds, manifestations and potential future. The book is highly recommended reading for all those interested in ocean affairs."
– Alexander Proelß, University of Hamburg