by Albrecht Cordes*
Almost simultaneously, at the end of the 13th century, maritime laws were being written down all around Europe. This invites a synchronic comparative study. This paper compares three areas of maritime law of varying levels of abstraction: jettison, seamen’s labour law, and common decision-making before and during the voyage. The outcome, as in any comparison, is differences and similarities – differences in the degree of the lord’s (king’s, duke’s) influence, who, for instance, ordered the presence of a ship notary on Mediterranean seafaring. The maritime laws less influenced by the heavy hand of the state abound in casuistic details, evidently being the product of the process of negotiations – negotiations which included the seamen, an influential and forthright group indeed. Despite all the natural differences within the vast space between Norway and the Mediterranean, the challenges posed by the characteristics of seafaring in general are quite similar. The solutions, however, differ greatly and bristle with creativity and variety. The maritime law of the 13th century looks like a gigantic legal laboratory in which experiments were conducted continuously. Tendencies towards a stronger unification and implementation of specific solutions only cropped up in the following century.