1. Introduction 2. Changing perceptions of the oceans and their resources : grotius to the turn of the twentieth century 3. The turn of the century to World War II 4. World War II and the postwar world 5. The 1958 and 1960 United Nations conferences on the law of the sea 6. The road to the third United Nations conference on the law of the sea 7. The third United Nations conference on the law of the sea 8. The post-Unclos-III system 9. Conclusions.