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Title: Sailors' legal rights in a Mediterranean hub : the case of Malta
Authors: Abela, Joan
Keywords: Merchant mariners -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- History
Economic history -- 1600-1750
Issue Date: 2015
Citation: Abela, Joan (2015). Sailors' legal rights in a Mediterranean hub :the case of Malta. In Fusaro, Maria ... [et al.]. (Eds), Law, labour, and empire : comparative perspectives on seafarers, c. 1500-1800 (pp.61-79). United Kingdom : Palgrave Macmillan
Abstract: This study will look at the actions and duties of seamen within the general legal framework that was created following the establishment of the Knights of the Order of St John in Malta in 1530. Although much has been written on corsairing activities under the knights' rule, as is the case with other historiographical trends across Europe, studies which analyse seamen's activities with respect to legal systems, maritime customs and regular trade have been rather sparse. This research seeks to examine whether local maritime practices constituted a general legal space in which Mediterranean seafarers sought to protect their interests. Through an analysis of the Consolato law of Malta and of a select number of litigation cases between seamen of various nationalities, this chapter will also argue that maritime law in Malta, as with the wider European context, was primarily formulated on the customs and practices of the sea. As noted by Richard Blakemore for the British context, 'custom must be understood within the legal system, not outside or against it'. Thus they are complementary, with the customs of the sea being considered an important element in the formulation of maritime law and to the proper functioning of maritime tribunals. This chapter will place special emphasis on the first lawsuits found in the records of the Consolato del Mare di Malta, namely those relating to the initial years of this commercial court, 1697-1710. These documents provide important references to sailors' work conditions, their wages and the specific context in which these were paid.It is argued that the Consolato tribunal was heavily dependent on the practices of mercantile tradition when judging disagreements and claims, making seasoned experience in maritime customs preferred to more abstract forms of jurisprudence. After introducing the Maltese context, this chapter discusses the influence of European maritime laws, especially those of France, Messina and Barcelona, when formulating the laws of the Consolata del Mare di Malta. Subsequently, there will be a discussion of the rights and duties of sailors and some considerations on the submission of claims to the Consolata tribunal.
Appears in Collections:Melitensia Works - ERCLawMlt
Scholarly Works - FacLawLHM

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