Troubled Waters. Cod War, Fishing Disputes, and Britain's Fight for the Freedom of the High Seas, 1948-1964
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The thesis describes Britain's disputes over fishery limits and territorial waters, 1948- 64. Norway, Iceland, the Soviet Union and Denmark (on behalf of Greenland and the Faroe Islands) extended national jurisdiction on the oceans. Britain protested against every move, even despatching the Royal Navy to the disputed waters off Iceland, the main antagonist. Yet, on every occasion Britain had to admit defeat. In analytical terms, the thesis is partly a case study on foreign policy decision-making, the nature of power in international relations, and the relative decline of Britain after the Second World War. It also sets the quarrels over territorial waters in the context of the Cold War. The central conclusion is that Britain was too slow to recognise changes in the composition of power in international relations after the Second World War. British policy-makers overestimated their capability to enforce on other states their interpretation of the law of the sea. Their miscalculations were influenced by five considerations: power (the existence of stronger naval forces than the Nordic opponents), pressure (from the British trawling industry), precedence (the danger that retreat in one place would weaken the British stand elsewhere), principle (adherence to international law as it had been developing when Britain was a stronger power), and prestige (the belief that Britain was still strong enough to have her way on the high seas). Furthen-nore, departmental differences in Whitehall often slowed down the process of decision-making and ensured that the views of those officials who best realised the actual extent of British capabilities did not prevail. And finally, the frustrating obstinacy of a newly independent nation like Iceland contributed to the conflicts. The thesis is based on primary sources from public and private archives in Britain, Iceland, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway, the United States and Russia. Numerous interviews were also conducted.
AuthorsJohannesson, Gudni Thorlacius
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