For the conduct and regulation of affairs on shore, two great legal systems prevail among the white nations: the Common Law of England and the Roman Civil Law. The brown and yellow nations as a rule follow slightly varying forms of the Old Law of China.
Commerce and navigation of the seas, however, are under one general, world-wide code, the Law Maritime, usually called “Admiralty” among English speaking peoples. Its minor ramifications vary in different parts of the world. Each country has legislated for its own merchant marine; but these national variations are practically confined to such matters as “full crew laws,” employer’s liability, slop-chest and lime-juice regulations, radio, etc. The enduring backbone of admiralty law is the same everywhere, practically unchanged for centuries.
Admiralty was first codified for the English by Richard I in a book called the Rules of Oleron. King Richard assembled the materials after his return from the Crusade. He had them from the Saracens, who had had them from the Greeks, who in turn had had them from the Phoenicians in the days when Odysseus was challenging the monopoly of Tyre in Mediterranean markets.