The barratry of the shipmaster in early modern law: the approach of Italian and English law courts

In: Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue d'histoire du droit / The Legal History Review
Guido Rossi Edinburgh University

Search for other papers by Guido Rossi in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



For a long time, the concept of barratry (at least in its maritime meaning) was one and the same on both sides of the Channel. The barratry of the shipmaster was part of the mercantile usages, and it identified the intentionally blameworthy conduct of the master. When law courts began to decide on insurance litigation they were confronted with a notion quite alien to them. Broadly speaking, the shipmaster’s barratry could well be considered a fraud of sort. But in order to decide on its occurrence in a specific case, law courts had to analyse it in legal terms, and so according to the specific legal categories of their own system. The point ceases to be trivially obvious if we think that the different legal framework of civil and common law courts progressively led to very different interpretations of the same thing. Thus, with the shift of insurance litigation from mercantile justice to law courts maritime barratry began to acquire increasingly different features in the two legal systems. Very often, the very same conduct of the shipmaster was considered as negligent by civil law courts and barratrous by common law courts. The difference was of great practical importance, for many policies excluded barratry from the risks insured against. So, depending on the kind of law court, an insurer could be charged with full liability for the mishap or walk away without paying anything. If the beginning of the story was the same, its end could not have been more different.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 377 94 3
Full Text Views 72 8 0
PDF Views & Downloads 100 8 0