Tides of Law: Maritime Predation and International Law in the South China Sea, 1840-1950

Date
2024
Authors
English, Lee Bryant
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Wang, Wensheng
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History
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Abstract
During the 1850s, delegates from numerous states met in Paris and formed an agreement that would prohibit the sponsorship of privateers in warfare. On the other side of the world during the same decade, the South China Seas saw an explosion of private maritime raiding which resulted in the Qing and British Empires working to stamp out those they agreed were pirates despite the animosity and conflicts that existed between them. Both events were part of a broader reshaping of the world to one of states with strong borders connected and strengthened by an emergent system of international law and order, a reshaping that turned special attention to the sea, traditionally lawless and borderless, where pirates, privateers, and other maritime predators thrived in the political and legal ambiguity that existed in the differences between different cultures’ views of the sea, which this new order sought to erase. This dissertation examines the relationship between maritime predators and both international and maritime law in the context of the South China Seas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and demonstrates that maritime predators were active and important players in the events that would help shape the emerging legal systems. The first two chapters provide the context necessary to handle such a complex and opaque relationship. Specifically, the first chapter explains the historical methodology and historiography which this dissertation fits into, while the second chapter examines the historical context of the evolution of global maritime predation over time. The third chapter then moves on to investigate the development of maritime and international law in this period, especially as it relates to maritime predation, including the readings of key treaties and more general trends in anti-maritime predation activities by various powers, especially the Qing Dynasty and the British Empire. The fourth chapter demonstrates the ways various forms of media, from newspapers to paintings, influenced both the public perception of maritime predators and, through public opinion, the formation and execution of laws concerning those maritime predators. The fifth chapter provides a chronological overview of developments concerning maritime predation and law in the region, highlighting the various ways they influenced each other. The sixth and final chapter reviews the insights gleaned from the dissertation’s examination of these topics, and what future research remains to be done.
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World history, Asian history, History, International Law, Maritime History, Maritime Law, Modern China, Pirates, World History
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542 pages
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