JAAC - The Historical Evolution of Sovereignty over Maritime Spheres of the Indian Ocean World

This project examines how the notion of sovereignty over maritime spheres first arose, and subsequently developed in the Indian Ocean World (IOW). The goal of the project will be to connect deeply local with global contexts of maritime sovereignty in both historical and contemporary times. Historically, however, claims to sovereignty over maritime spheres by states indigenous to the IOW, unlike states of European originin the Mediterranean and Atlantic realms, have arisen relatively recently—over the last few centuries. There are currently many significant disputes and conflicts concerning claims ofsovereignty over maritime spheres, especially in the East Asia Sea. Contemporary claims largely reflect various states’ interests—from laying claim to island, maritime and sub-ocean-bed resources, to the creation or strengthening of national identity. This project explores the rise and early development. It will further explore in the pre-modern (pre-1800) and modern (1800-1945) eras two major issues fundamental to such claims: proprietorial claims to the exploitation of maritime resources, and control over maritime transport.

There exist a number of thematic overlaps with other proposals in this project, which is promising ground for collaboration and value-added from allied fields of research.


Origins of Claims to Maritime Space by
  • Fisherfolk
  • Coastal communities
  • Pirates
  • Traders and Companies
  • States
Exploitation of Maritime Spaces
  • Coastal
    • Ambergris
    • Shells
  • Mangrove Swamps
    • Poles
    • Fish, etc.
  • Fishing
    • Pearls
    • Whales (oil, bones, flesh)
    • Turtles (shells, eggs, meat)
  • Ocean Bed
    • Oil
    • Gas
  • Exchange (legitimate trade and smuggling/trafficking)
    • Commodities (including arms, drugs)
    • Money
    • Animals and animal products (including ivory and rhinoceros horn)
    • Humans
Enforcement Techniques
  • Force
  • Guile
  • Negotiation (e.g. voluntary treaties)
  • Law
  • Other (status, religion, magic, etc.)


Gwyn Campbell (IOWC)

Hideaki Suzuki (IOWC/JSPS)