In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Law of the Sea

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Classical Texts and Overviews of Them
  • Cases and Primary Materials
  • Textbooks
  • Seabed and Ocean Floor
  • Fisheries
  • Pollution and Protection of the Marine Environment
  • Regional Studies
  • National Policies
  • Land-Locked States
  • Delimitation
  • Miscellaneous

International Relations Law of the Sea
Corine Wood Donnelly
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0029


The law of the sea is a living component of international public law and domestic law. The historical foundations of the modern regime of maritime law date back to the debate between the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius and the English jurist John Selden, who deliberated over the nature of the sea and its ability to be controlled by man through acts of sovereignty. Those deliberations continue to be reflected in contemporary debates of the law of sea; only the nature and focus of the debate have changed and the debate has turned from theoretical discourse to a decidedly technical discussion. Contemporary discourse focuses on specialized topics, including the continental shelf, exclusive economic zones, pollution, and resources of the sea, which have been presented in the single document of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The law of the sea has received much attention since the early 20th century, seeing several “generations” of international maritime law with UNCLOS Conventions presented in 1958 and 1960, finally culminating in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which entered into force in 1994. With the international ratification of this convention, its regulations have become the guidelines for oceans today. This bibliography represents the discourse of specialized topics of maritime law found within UNCLOS III, the contemporary legal framework for the law of the sea, including the growing relevance of dispute settlement necessary as states seek to apply the convention to their maritime activities.

General Overviews

United Nations 1982 provides the primary framework for contemporary maritime law; however, there are many supplemental overviews that prove useful in a discussion of the entirety of the law of the sea. Glassner 1990, Mangone 1981, and Wang 1992 offer overviews on the theoretical developments of the conceptual ideas found in maritime law. The narrative delivered by Eiriksson 2000 provides an overview of tribunal process for the resolution of disputes, while Knight and Chiu 1991delivers a collection of essential primary source documents and case notes. Finally, O’Connell 1984 describes the nature of the political development of the law of the sea, providing valuable insight into the forces in the evolution of international law, and Vincent 2008 offers, in addition to a basic presentation of the law of the sea, insights on the policy of the European Community.

  • Eiriksson, Gudmundur. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 2000.

    A guide to the creation of an international tribunal under UNCLOS III for the settlement of disputes between states pertaining to the law of the sea. Examines the organization, jurisdiction, applicable law, and procedure of the international tribunal in its international context.

  • Glassner, Martin Ira. Neptune’s Domain: A Political Geography of the Sea. London: Unwin Hyman, 1990.

    The author provides an overview of the law of the sea, including UNCLOS III, maritime zones, special zones, and different uses of the sea from the perspective of a political geographer. The main themes include: how use of the sea is regulated, legal jurisdiction, and the rules for using the sea.

  • Knight, Gary, and Hungdah Chiu. The International Law of the Sea: Cases, Documents, and Readings. London: Elsevier, 1991.

    This is an annotated discussion of the law of the sea; it covers many topics, including the nature of oceans and their jurisdictional zones, a history of and sources for the law of the sea, the high seas, continental shelf, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), among others. It also discusses the settlement of disputes and the law of warfare at sea.

  • Mangone, Gerard J. Law for the World Ocean. London: Steven & Sons, 1981.

    Based on a lecture series delivered at the University of Calcutta, this book examines legal theory and the uses of the sea, international law and naval forces, merchant marines, fisheries, exploitation of the seabed, and protection of the marine environment.

  • O’Connell, D. P. International Law of the Sea. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982–1984.

    Considered a major contribution to the discussion of the law of the sea, these volumes provide a comprehensive analysis of the legal principles and doctrines that have developed in the international law of the sea. They provide insight into political and legal influences that have been prominent over the last several hundred years.

  • United Nations. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 10 December 1982.

    Includes the entirety of documents and overviews of the United Nations as related to UNCLOS. This includes translations of the convention in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and Russian. Contains components of the historical development of the convention, as well as its current status, implementing agreements, and settlement of disputes mechanism.

  • Vincent, Philippe. Droit de la Mer. Brussels: Larcier, 2008.

    Provides fundamental explanations of the basic components of the law of the sea, including continental shelf and territorial waters. Focuses on four areas: the law of the sea, the marine environment, management of biological resources, and European Community policy.

  • Wang, James C. F. Handbook on Ocean Politics & Law. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1992.

    Offers a general overview of the categories of ocean law, including the development of international principles, living and nonliving resources, and deep seabed mining, as well as marine pollution and regional arrangements for its prevention. Also includes chapters on military uses of the ocean, navigation, communication, and scientific research.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.