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International Workshop Maritime Conflicts and their Resolution in Atlantic Europe (13th-17th Centuries)

The International Workshop 'Maritime Conflicts and their Resolution in Atlantic Europe (13th-17th Centuries)' takes place at the University of La Laguna, Tenerife (Spain) from 21 to 22 April 2017.

Although maritime life is characterized by endemic violence, given an environment hostile to man and beyond the authority of the State, its importance to economic and social life has led to public and private initiatives aiming to ensure the development of maritime activities and the defence of interests involved.

Past conflicts most often related to natural and human damage, due to the harshness of the marine environment. Nature’s adverse impact resulted from a lack of technical means to deal with the dangers of the sea. Economic constraints and uncertainties affected commercial activities and fishing. It was not uncommon for victims to convert into aggressors and vice versa. Another cause of conflict was to be found in the disputes between ship masters and their crews, between ship owners and charterers or between those who financed maritime and commercial activities (ship owners and financiers) and those who realized them (ship masters, merchants).

One solution to this situation of conflict, although hardly successful, was the establishment of maritime jurisdictions with coercive powers. The authorities, supported by the most notable groups in the maritime sector, were concerned with safeguarding the political and economic interests of the various kingdoms. From this point of view, they employed the military, judicial, legislative and diplomatic means proper to the ‘modern state’. They demanded the monopoly of violence, the rule of law and its leading role in international relations. When these means did not produce the desired results, they had recourse to special agreements because of the high economic value of the activities and property affected. These ranged from simple economic assistance to arbitration, through agreements between merchant associations.

What was the role of monarchs in resolving maritime conflicts? What methods did they apply in order to stimulate or force the reiteration of the damages of their subjects or inhabitants or those who traded in their jurisdictions? To promote or impose reparation for damages suffered by their subjects as well as by foreigners who traded within their jurisdiction? The regulatory activity of monarchs involved the granting of individual and general safeguards to merchants and carriers, nullifying the principle of collective responsibility, the adoption of dissuasive measures such as protection by armed vessels and shipping in convoys and control of damage redress. With regard to professional activities, they enacted their own laws and promoted the incorporation of international laws, which contributed to the creation of a law of the sea. Finally, they monitored the manner in which contracts were concluded and applied between private individuals.

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