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The Disciplined Sea: A History of Maritime Security and Zonation




This article details the evolution of maritime security from the perspective of its impact on the historical architecture of sea space. It argues that, as the fundamental unit of governance, zoning provides keen insight into the mechanics of maritime security. The paper observes that Britain’s Hovering Acts in the late 18th century represent the earliest example of modern zonation at sea and that they exhibit a shift from early modern territorial claims based on imperium and dominium. The paper explores the way these hovering zones shaped the rationale underlying contemporary maritime security. It finds that maritime security has effectively relegated national security to a minor spatial belt of state power, while elevating non-traditional understandings of security to the level of global existential threat. The future of maritime security is under construction. Increasingly segmented by interconnecting, overlapping, multi-functional zones that seek to regulate all free movement and usage of the sea, the maritime sphere is being reorganised. Nonetheless, the paper argues, despite the novelty of this development, a historical military logic persists in new formations of security oriented practices of maritime governance.


Ryan. (2019). The Disciplined Sea: A History of Maritime Security and Zonation. International Affairs, 95(5), 1055-1073.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 18, 2019
Online Publication Date Sep 1, 2019
Publication Date Sep 1, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2023
Journal International Affairs
Print ISSN 0020-5850
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 95
Issue 5
Pages 1055-1073
Keywords International Relations Theory International History International Governance, Law, and Ethics Conflict, Security, and Defence
Publisher URL