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While scholars in a variety of disciplines have published on the law of the sea and the social construction of oceanic space, legal coasts have received less sustained and systematic attention. This event brings together experts on a wide geographical range of coastal settings, with the invitation to interpret the word “legal” as widely as they see fit. The roundtable will also explore the various ways that terms such as “coast,” “shore,” “foreshore,” “island” and “archipelago” manifested in different languages and language families, and indeed whether some unique terms and concepts existed in particular languages. The spatial awareness and cultural geography of littoral zones is specific to particular times and places, and to the demarcations of meaning associated with coastal vocabularies that do not always correspond to what we are accustomed to in modern English. Thus, although the legal history is of intrinsic interest, we hope that inviting historians and other scholars with legal interests to participate in this conversation will also put a spotlight on these cultural and linguistic differences. This, in turn, may open up possibilities for new ways of conceptualizing coastal history.

  • Isaac Land is the co-editor of the new interdisciplinary journal Coastal Studies & Society, published by Sage.
  • Xiaofei Gao researches aquaculture, fishing, and gender in northeast China during the early decades of Communist rule.
  • Tuba Azeem has a background in international and Islamic law, and is currently undertaking a project on the Med Fisherfolk of Balochistan.
  • Michael Talbot is the author of “Separating the Waters from the Sea: The Place of Islands in Ottoman Maritime Territoriality during the Eighteenth Century.”
  • Julia Leikin is the author ofGreeks into Privateers: Law and Language of Commerce Raiding under the Imperial Russian Flag, 1760s-1790s.”


All welcome, this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.