Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Droit de naufrage Definition:

French: an ancient right of any land-owner to claim the wreck and men (as slaves) of any ship which wrecked upon waters adjacent to his land.

The extremely harsh concept of droit de naufrage was described by Simeon Baldwin in his Yale Law Journal article:

One of the dark spots in the dark and middle ages is the treatment of foreigners. Was a ship wrecked upon the French coast? What was saved was saved for the seigneur who owned the shore, or his overlord, the king. The lading and the crew were alike his, to dispose of as he would. If the sailors were uncivil enough to set up a claim to the wreckage, he could kill them. If he preferred, he could sell them as slaves. It was his right-the droit de naufrage...

droit de naufrage"The droit de naufrage (eventually disappeared). The humaner law of the Christian emperors of Rome followed by the Visigoths in Spain in the seventh century, and enforced in the twelfth by the laws of Oleron, appealed successfully to the awakening conscience of the modern world."

Amos Hershey added:

"The attitude of the feudal lord toward trade and the foreigner is shown by his numerous exactions, such as tolls, the claim of a right to the property of the shipwrecked (droit de naufrage), and his claim to inherit the property of the foreigner (droit d'aubaine)."


  • Baldwin, Simeon E. Modern Droit d'Aubaine, 14 YLJ 131 (1904-1905)
  • Hershey, Amos, History of International Relations During Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 5 Am. J. Int'l L. 901 at 923 (1911)

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