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The Free Sea of Hugo Grotius

Maritime access to distant regions war restricted during the period of dominance of Spain and Portugal but was in decline during the 16th century. In the beginning of the 17th century. Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius wrote his treatise The Free Sea to make the case supporting access by traders from the Netherlands to the waters in which Spain and Portugal were still resisting foreign entry. Based on the proposition that the benefits of the ocean were not diminished by use, Grotius proposed that the seas were free to all and that Spain and Portugal did not have the right to limit access to distant seas. With the addition of the concept of a narrow territorial band around the land in which coastal states held sovereignty, the concept of freedom of the seas was born and would be the primary doctrine of ocean use for the next three centuries.

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