Talk:Terra nullius

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Older comments[edit]

—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

legal fiction has a technical legal meaning (which is described in the Wikipedia article on it.)

Based on the relevant legal documents, I believe this page title should be spelt "Terra nullius" - but I don't want to tackle the reversing of the redirection yet.

zig 12:03, 8 Feb 2004 (UTC)

There is no way that the section of the article under 'Discussions' is NPOV. It's simply an attack on Reynolds, not presenting the other side at all. |

A somewhat nebulous criticism, but I see your point. I think I might rework some of that. --bainer (talk) 07:54, 25 January 2006 (UTC)

Australia section[edit]

The section needs to explain Reynolds arguments in more detail to be NPOV. It should explain what Reynolds is arguing and any evidence he uses to support his position. Criticism of his position should be attributed to a notable critic. Somebody notable must have written some sort of critique rebutting Reynolds's argument, say an Australian historian a major Australian university for example. As it stands, the section reads like "Reynolds has aurgued...but he is wrong becuase..." which isn't NPOV. --Cab88 11:33, 30 January 2006 (UTC).

March 2006: I have now added to the page a reference to Michael Connor's book, based on his PhD thesis: check it out. I think that this should be considered "notable" enough. - Michael in Canberra [no relation to Connor] ...

This section is quite incredible! It is extremely POV from a political perspective, and tries to use questionable historical documents to support a purely legalistic interpretation of what was a common and unfortunate "unofficial" policy of the day. The simple reason there's no documents supporting "Terra Nullius" is that there was no recognition that Aboriginal people were "settled" at all. Aboriginals were considered to be "nomads" as they had no known permenent settlements or habitations as Europeans understood them. Cab88 has a good point above, but there has to be some way of reconciling the cultural reality, as well as the documented history in a truely NPOV document. After all, "history" is written by the winners... Johnpf 03:16, 3 March 2006 (UTC).

More from Michael in Canberra: - This is quite ridiculous. Terra nullius is (- the Latin gives it away) a legal doctrine. No-one - least of all the first British Governor, Arthur Phillip, - imagined Australia was in fact uninhabited. To the contrary, the lettter Phillip bore from the King expresssly referred to the native people and gave him instructions about policy towards them. Terra nullius was NOT the name for an unofficial policy.

Whoever made the recent changes did a pretty good job - I'm not convinced it's NPOV, but it doesnt read like a rant by an aging Qld cattle farmer any more. Johnpf 18:14, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

I believe there's still a major problem with the article's section on Australia. The more I look at it, the more convinced I am that the entire section needs to be moved into another article, and a short, READABLE summery be placed there along the lines of "There has been mixed interpretations as to whether the concept of Terra Nullius was ever used to justify the settlement of Australia. There is no doubt that there is no documentation thjat shows the application of Terra Nullius at the time, however in the 1970s it was ajudged by Justice Blackburn to have aplied. This has since been invalidated by subsequent court cases. Refer History wars,Native title and a specific article on this in Oz." . Most of this article is currently not about Terra Nullius, but is about Australia's issues with the concept.

The rest of the article needs to be edited into something that normal people can read - has most of this been lifted from some kind of really hard-to-read textbook? Look at the 'Rationale' section: there are 7 sentences, with 360 words, meaning an average sentence length of 51 words per sentence. Most people start to struggle after about 25 words per sentence! What's written there no doubt makes sense to lawyers, but not to "normal people", and I doubt that WP would be where a lawyer would be seeking a definition of the term. Can someone who knows what that 'Rationale' section means turn it into something accessible? Johnpf 01:14, 19 March 2006 (UTC)

"As in Antiquity peace was considered an exceptional condition between states, only established by peace treaty, war being their natural rapport, any territory that was not explicitly recognized as legitimately possessed by a treaty partner was considered free to be legitimately occupied, even by offensive war." This is a mad one sentence opening paragraph, has it been lifted from an old copy of Britannica? Are there any references or attributions to this POV? (MarkG Feb 2006)

I just made very minor changes to the end of the Mabo section, because December 2004 is no longer "very recent", and because the phrase "40% ... is now in the hands of Aboriginal peoples" sounded like it was being spat out from between clenched teeth of someone who was seething at the thought. (talk) 18:27, 9 August 2008 (UTC)

I think the main problem with the Australia section is the discussion of the current law. Mabo was undoubtedly of immense importance but now native title is decided by reference to the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). Also, while there may be significant percentages of land 'owned' by Aboriginal people, a reasonable amount of this (if not the majority) would be due to legislative schemes other than native title itself. Cgaaus (talk) 00:10, 3 June 2010 (UTC)

—— There is a conflict between the NSW supreme court case referencing terra nullius from 1836 and the following Michael Connor quote. Either the NSW supreme court case is misquoted, or Connor is wrong, and should be removed. If Connor provides concrete support for his assertions, perhaps they can be summarised. --Blibbler (talk) 16:45, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

In the History of Australia "In 1835, the British Colonial Office issued the Proclamation of Governor Bourke, implementing the legal doctrine of terra nullius upon which British settlement was based, reinforcing the notion that the land belonged to no one prior to the British Crown taking possession of it and quashing any likelihood of treaties with Aboriginal peoples." Bourke does not use the term "Terra Nullius" in this proclamation. Seasalt (talk) 01:25, 18 November 2017 (UTC)

In Defense of Henry Reynolds[edit]

Whoever wrote that line about Henry Reynolds and "his many followers on the left of Australian history" has obviously not picked up the "Journal of Australian Historical Studies"( Vol 32 issue#117), or Henry Reynolds's "Aboriginal Identity". As Merete Borch explains in "Rethinking the Origins of Terra Nullius" (2001) the legal doctrine of terra nullius was not established until the 19th century, well after the beginnings of European colonialization (224). Most importantly, Borch asserts that it was the establishment of New South Wales in Australia as a penal colony that played a huge significance in the transformation of terra nullius from an archaic agreement between territories into an international doctrine of law (224). Additionally, Henry Reynolds in his book "Aboriginal Identity" in no way makes the assertion that the colonial powers believed that "Australia was 'a tract of territory practically unoccupied, without settled inhabitants or settled law.'" In fact, upon reading the book one would find that Reynolds clearly states that terra nullius coupled property rights and sovereignty in English common law. With the Mabo case however, according to Reynolds “demolished the concept of terra nullius in respect of property” (3). Instead terra nullius would be upheld with respect to sovereignty of Aboriginal people. I highly recommend anyone to read some of Reynolds's work. In doing so, such a ignorant comment could be understood and forgiven. —This unsigned comment was added by Bakerflip12 (talkcontribs) .

Reynolds shouldn't be the centre of discussion at all. When I finish my rewrite of Mabo v Queensland I'll come back and rewrite the section on TN in Australia. --bainer (talk) 07:00, 30 March 2006 (UTC)
Reynolds should be the centre of discussion in as much as much of the animus and accusations of inaccuracy are directed against him.--Jack Upland 10:07, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

Rewrite for Australia[edit]

What we need is:

  • Evidence for when TN was first used as a term in Australia - rather than simple assertions it was first used in the 1970s or 90s!
  • Quotations (or at least citations) of Henry Reynolds and others putting their view.
  • A general rewrite to make it more than a regurgitation of Connor's argument.--Jack Upland 00:54, 30 July 2006 (UTC)
Thanks to John of Patmos for providing the relevant court decisions.--Jack Upland 00:12, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Someone is demanding citations for these court decisions. They are citations. A website or magazine might be easily to check but it isn't more reliable!--Jack Upland 23:41, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Copies of the decisions can be found at [ "Macquarie University, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899"]-- John of Patmos 10:28AM, 6 September 2006 (AEST)

I'll put that in.--Jack Upland 11:26, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Antarctica and the moon[edit]

Is it correct to say that Antarctica is terra nullius? My understanding is that several nations claim sovereignty over all or part of it, but they have each agreed (by treaty) not to enforce their claims, and each other signatory to the treaty has agreed not to make fresh claims. It might be more accurate to describe the moon as terra nullius pursuant to the Outer Space Treaty. Legis 15:33, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Well, "terra nullius" really means "empty land", not "no one's land", and Antartica is certainly that.--Jack Upland (talk) 12:01, 16 February 2008 (UTC)
It doesn't matter what the literal Latin meaning is, since it has a specific legal meaning. But I also have a problem with the current text regarding Antarctica: it doesn't matter at all that it is not "capable of supporting human habitation without supplies from outside." That is completely irrelevant to the meaning of Terra nullius. (talk) 19:22, 1 April 2009 (UTC)

I think the Latin meaning is relevant. The term is not used when the land in question is deemed inhabited.--Jack Upland (talk) 10:12, 5 July 2009 (UTC)

The Latin meaning is literally "Land of no one", not "empty land" which would be terra vasta. RandomCritic (talk) 11:35, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
By the same reasoning, the moon can't be terra nullius. It would be luna nullius, but possibly inhabited by it's native people, the lunatics. Msaunier (talk) 05:36, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

I stand corrected, but I still think the concept is that there is no fixed habitation.--Jack Upland (talk) 08:16, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Legitimate reasons for war[edit]

such as the moral principles of Christianity or Islam, which reversed the 'natural war' by considering peace normal (even God's will) unless there were legitimate reasons for war,

Descriptions of warfare in classical antiquity do not focus around the debate of the natural/unnatural state of warfare as it existed. War in the ancient period was more of a seasonal occurrance, rather than a state of mind as it existed for the leadership. Territorial conquest came hand in hand with providing 'booty' for the army concerned, for this was frequently the only method of payment for service. Monetary contributions came from 'state' coffers, and were used to feed and train people in the fighting style of the day. In the Fuedal period, warfare was an appendage to the desire of the state leader to expand his personal power (and therefore his reputation as a leader of men). An army would form, frequently after the harvest period, and continue on 'campaign' as a matter of course; territorial exchange or the shifting of accepted borders had more to do with control of taxation or trade, and could even be perpetrated as a simple method of keeping agricultural workers 'busy' until the change of seasons, a defeat, or a retreat. Even a succesful military group would often break up simply to return to cultivated fields for replanting and harvest before the cycle would begin again. To call peace an "unnatural state" is to misconstrue the entire concept; peace/war were one concept, and campaigning conducted as long as success and favouable weather continued. Fighting was frequently seen as something that only males participated in. Greek history is full of examples of war conducted in this fashion. If we look at the conduct of Armies in the Peloponyisian period, it becomes obvious that the ebb and flow of conflict matched the seasonal variation of the climate in the terrain fought over. Women were often seen as fair 'booty', and carted off wholesale as carnal prizes, or sold into slavery to finance the next campaigning season. Alexander of Macedon took a wife as war booty (the Sogdian ROXANNA), specifically for the purpose of fathering a dynasty. His consort and lover, HEPHAESTION was, in actuality, his heir apparent until his untimely death advanced the need for Alexander to procreate.(Christofurry (talk) 17:02, 14 February 2008 (UTC))

Dunno about this sentence - what religions (especially at the time referred) consider(ed) legitimate reasons for war don't seem to reverse the idea of natural war much if at all. 23:30, 6 November 2006 (UTC)


The line

"Some Zionist leaders considered Palestine as terra nullius during the period of Jewish immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but there was no legal void as some Ottoman laws are still invoked even before Israeli courts in this century."

doesn't look like it was written by a native speaker. Normally, "this century" applies exclusively to the current century (in this case the 21st). However, I have taught ESL for quite some time, and seen a number of other languages where the tendency to say "this" refers to something explicitly stated earlier in the sentence ("in the late 19th and early 20th centuries").

What do you think? Deserving of clarification? samwaltz 18:42, 24 December 2006 (UTC)

No, "this century" means now. Ottoman laws are still invoked in Israeli courts now. Israeli courts did not exist in the "late 19th and early 20th centuries".--Jack Upland (talk) 08:20, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Copied out of 19th century text book?[edit]

The style of the opening section feels archaic, has it been copied out of an old book? "In antiquity peace was considered an exceptional condition between states, only established by peace treaty, war being their natural rapport".

  • "In antiquity" is a strange expression - needs further definition.
  • "war being their natural rapport" - from some 19th century philosopher? is this legal language? The concept of war as being a 'natural state' is a philosophical position (let alone discussions of the concept of 'natural') - can we have references to the people who put forward this position?

--mgaved 11:13, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

The Moon[edit]

A 1969 Time article states that the U.S. and USSR both have declared luna to be terra nullius, explicitly using that phrase. Someone who's not currently at work should look into this, don't you think? --Kizor 08:45, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Fuzzy arguments[edit]

Look at this:

Although Australia was clearly not unoccupied, scattered and nomadic Aboriginal groups would have been widely perceived, through European eyes of the time, as evidence of a barbarous country and thus no legal impediment to settlement.

Britain had no problems with asserting imperial dominion over India, Hong Kong etc (and this included some small settlement). The advantage in Australia, South Africa, and North America was that sparse population made large scale settlement easier. It's a practical not an ideological issue!--Jack Upland (talk) 12:14, 16 February 2008 (UTC)

No, it is an ideological issue. By claiming terra nullius, the British did not have to recognize Aboriginal land rights, and all land became Crown Land. No treaties were necessary. Things would have been legally different if the settlement was defined as a conquest. (talk) 18:19, 9 August 2008 (UTC)

Things might have been legally different, but the passage above overstates the case. The British Empire was the largest empire the world has ever seen, yet we are supposed to believe that its expansion only progressed through adherence to obscure legal doctrines. Pull the other one.--Jack Upland (talk) 07:12, 10 August 2008 (UTC)
There was nothing obscure about these legal doctrines. They were at the forefront of the minds of the people representing the Crown (government). I suggest you read about the history of New Zealand and the Treaty of Waitangi, which sharply contrasts what happened in Australia. (talk) 12:21, 27 August 2008 (UTC)

Why don't you read what I wrote?--Jack Upland (talk) 10:14, 5 July 2009 (UTC)

The difference between Australia and many other places (including New Zealand) is that the pre-British inhabitants of Australia had no system of political leadership that Europeans could understand, and the British couldn't really find anyone who seemed to have the authority to sign a treaty. By contrast, plenty of treaties were signed in New Zealand, Africa, Asia, North America etc. with peoples who had recognized chiefs, kings, etc., and I don't see why colonialist authorities would be so much more racist in Australia than in all those other places... AnonMoos (talk) 06:44, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

I think this is an overly legalistic view of the issue. The status legally of North American natives might have been better than Australian Aborigines, but the reality isn't. While there were no treaties signed in Australia, there were also no major wars (in comparison with other places). The legal aspect should not totally dominate the discussion.--Jack Upland (talk) 09:59, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, Terra Nullius is a legal doctrine, and there was plenty of racism and shoddy practices in other parts of the world, but very little Terra Nullius (at least by the British). Australia was the only large quasi-continental area of the world almost exclusively populated by what anthropologists call "band"-level societies at the time of first intensive contact with Europeans (i.e. with few or no real "tribes", much less any "chiefdoms" or "states"). As I said, the contrast on a formal legal level between Australia and New Zealand is extreme, and this seems to be due more to the fact that in New Zealand there were chiefs in recognized positions of authority with whom treaties could be signed, rather than in any decision beforehand by the British to proceed differently in the two areas... AnonMoos (talk) 11:16, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
While that may or may not be true, the west coast of Canada, which was settled at a similar time to Australia had tribes with established chiefs, yet no treaties were signed. -- (talk) 17:48, 23 July 2012 (UTC)

Precisely. The issue was practical. Hence the doctrine of terra nullius did not determine imperial expansion. QED.--Jack Upland (talk) 09:04, 30 December 2011 (UTC)


I don't know how anyone can feel comfortable with the unsubstantiated statements in this section. The arbitrary attributions to de Vattel and Locke have now been capriciously challenged because they don't fit a passer-by's own original research. If we can't have scrupulous documentation for a contentious clause ("terra nullius applied to uncultivated land"), surely there is no justification for keeping it, or the whole section , for that matter. Bjenks (talk) 13:35, 12 December 2008 (UTC)

History of the term[edit]

I don't mind that so much of the article centers on Australia but shouldn't there be a lead section on the history of the term? Who decided that only empty land (or land with uncivilized peoples) has available for claiming? And when? Did each claiming country decide on its own rules for what made a civilized people? How has legal opinions change over time (other than in Australia?) WikiParker (talk) 00:58, 21 June 2009 (UTC)

Well, in fact the British Empire and other European empires did "claim" territory that was indisputably inhabited. I think the patterns of European settlement are based on historical convenience not ideology. The areas of major European settlement are: the Americas, southern Africa, and the Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii). This settlement occurred over several centuries and in different contexts. I don't think there is a legal doctrine that covers this. Rather the legal doctrine was used in various contexts - and generally after the conquest had occurred.--Jack Upland (talk) 10:21, 5 July 2009 (UTC)

      • I think one has to keep in mind there was a balance, a mixture....of several factors. Such as 1. Evidence of substantial permanent settlements. 2. Existence of a governmental entity capable of entering into negotiations. 3. Ability of the other side to resist or fight back -- to make war. There is a reason why Great Britain could claim lands in the New World... or Australia... or even India or parts of China...but not, say, claim Vienna for the crown. Why? In Australia -- no substantial permanent settlements, no leaders or government, and no ability to fight back. In the New World - chiefs who could negotiate, limited ability to fight back, but no major cities or settlements. In India -- obvious permanent settlements and leaders, but limited ability to resist a superior military force. But Austria -- well, it satisfies 1, 2 and no, the British crown couldn't claim Vienna in the same way it did Canada, Australia or parts of India. Chesspride (talk) 07:41, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

Bir Tawil/Kingdom of Nikoku[edit]

I've made some notes about the "Kingdom of Nikoku" claims at Talk:Bir Tawil -- Boing! said Zebedee 11:20, 27 May 2010 (UTC)

West Bank[edit]

This section contains a non-sequitur. The reason why the West Bank might be considered "terra nullius" is that the British very carefully refrained from handing over any territory or sovereignty to anyone as they withdrew in May 1948, and extremely few countries recognized Transjordan's claimed annexation from 1948-1967. Jerusalem is a separate and more complicated issue... AnonMoos (talk) 06:50, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

The view that the west bank is terra nullius, conflicts fundamentally with the view of the ICJ in its Wall opinion. Until this is recognised, I suggest (from a legal point of view) that this section of the page be removed. -- (talk) 21:44, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
I've just reverted this edit, as it's a sourced statement and described as being controversial. Feel free (within the bounds of a neutral point of view) to expand the description of why it's controversial to include the position of the ICJ. — OwenBlacker (Talk) 23:09, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Still contains a non-sequitur, since it's far from clear that Jerusalem is part of the West bank for such analytical legal purposes... AnonMoos (talk) 00:50, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
Anyway, there could theoretically be an interesting and valid section of this article about the West Bank -- but what's actually there in the article now doesn't fairly summarize the main arguments for terra nullius status and doesn't fairly summarize the main arguments against terra nullius status, so that like I'm left wondering what it validly contributes in its current form... AnonMoos (talk) 04:28, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
A terra nullius is a piece of land which is claimed by no country. That is not the case with the West Bank. Beyond My Ken (talk) 00:48, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
What's that remark supposed to mean in the context of this talk page discussion???? It certainly doesn't clarify any issues, or do anything to improve the article. AnonMoos (talk) 03:09, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
It means that the discussion is moot is terms of this article. If you want to discuss the political status of the West Bank. I recommend you do it on Talk:West Bank. Beyond My Ken (talk) 03:32, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Whatever -- The West Bank section of the article had definite problems, but your abrasively dogmatic and apparently not very well-informed comments here on the talk page do absolutely nothing to create a cooperative and collaborative atmosphere here for discussing article improvements, and it's rather dubious whether your drastic excision on the article itself can be considered an improvement... AnonMoos (talk) 11:10, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

        • Curious -- what recognized country claims the (entire) West Bank? Not Israel. Not Jordan. The PLO governing body is not recognized as a governing country. The area is occupied by Israel (but not claimed by Israel), no longer claimed by Jordan, and in limbo until the Arab and Israeli sides reach a final agreement on borders. One cannot speak of a "claim" by a non-recognized nation-state. Chesspride (talk) 07:47, 30 April 2016 (UTC)
          • The fact that you characterize Fatah as "the PLO governing body" shows your bias. What is a "governing country"? You mean because the Zionists have pushed them off most of their land, including all the best and most productive lands? Because they're occupied by an oppressor, and are thus prevented from self-actualization...these are reasons to ignore their claims outright? You must be kidding. (talk) 04:25, 1 October 2017 (UTC)


Is the neutral zone between Gibraltar and Spain an example of terra nullius? Bazonka (talk) 12:34, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

No. Gibraltar and all the territory around it (including the so-called neutral zone) was part of Spain and subject to its jurisdiction until it was ceded to Great Britain. Although the actual extent of the territory ceded to Great Britain is in dispute, any territory that wasn't ceded to Great Britain remained Spanish jurisdiction. Great Britain has never relinquished jurisdiction to any of the territory either. Therefore, since the Treaty of Utrecht, either Spain or Great Britain (and now the UK) has had jurisdiction, so it's not terra nullius. CruiserBob (talk) 02:49, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Stateless persons[edit]

"The current entities that exercise jurisdiction and sovereignty rights are: [...]

  • Stateless persons that do not have citizenship of any of the 222 entities."

If only that were true... — Mike Gogulski ↗C@T 03:21, 12 January 2011 (UTC) (stateless ex-American since 2008)


The inclusion of the "isthmus" between Croatia and the Brezovica enclave is based on a source that itself explains that the Slovenian online cadaster map shows the area as Croatian not because they don't claim it, but to work around a software limitation:

According to Irena Poženel, the head of The Department for the State Border at the Surveying and Mapping Authority of the Republic of Slovenia, explained on 15 April 2009 that the "border line" that connects the exclave with the rest of interstate boundary is a line plotted for only for identification purposes in a computer program that calculates the area of the closed polygon (in this case the entire republic).

I'm removing the entry. --Angus (talk) 12:07, 19 October 2014 (UTC)

The section of the cadaster map to which that passage refers is not the "isthmus." It actually refers to a line drawn from the existing enclave connecting to the main land area. That location is several hundred meters away from the "isthmus." The map image showed a layer of boundaries superimposed upon it. These boundaries were indeed used in the software application, which requires the modeling of the cadastral parcels as contiguous in order to obtain correct calculation results. When this image had been revealed, doubt had arisen about whether the existing enclave was in fact an enclave, with the answer resting on the possibility that the line indicated an exceedingly narrow physical, territorial connection to the main land area. The answer provided by the Slovenian authority was that the software model did not depict an actual physical connector, and thus, what had been known to be an enclave was and is the enclave of Brezovica.
The reason given for the previous deletion is therefore not applicable. I have restored this part of the article. Jeff in CA (talk) 00:20, 30 March 2015 (UTC)


I've removed the section on Mabo, which appears not to have ever had any sourcing and was flagged as uncited. Mabo and Wik weren't about terra nullius, according to the High Court decisions. They were about land ownership and use, a different concept. The court found that there was a system of land ownership in the Torres Strait, pre-existing European colonisation. They did not find any civilised government, which is the natural requirement for any diplomatic negotiation and sovereignty. This is distinct from (say) New Zealand, where the aboriginal people had cities, identifiable government structures and a national identity, as evidenced by the Treaty of Waitangi. If any editor can find a formal source - as opposed to lay opinions - linking Mabo etc, to a determination of terra nullius, then please put it forward. --Pete (talk) 19:06, 27 November 2014 (UTC)

What definition ?[edit]

Why on earth has the terra nullius at Croatia been taken off? If there's no good reason I'll restore it. Humshom (talk) 10:17, 26 September 2015 (UTC)

I was a little surprised to see that, but I guess it makes sense. The logic is that it's not actually a terra nullius as the Croatian government has released a statement defining it as a current border dispute, rather than a situation where sovereignty has been relinquished.[1] Ditto the Croat/Slovenian one.[2] Bromley86 (talk) 13:38, 26 September 2015 (UTC)

It's back. Is the Principality of Ongal needed on it? They're more of a roleplay than anything else. Humshom (talk) 10:58, 3 October 2015 (UTC)

I'd leave it for the moment. After all, they're no different really from Enclava, and that would currently need to be kept just because it's the whole of the C-S section. I'll ping Mootros to see if he still wants the two sections removed - no sense in figuring out whether Ongal should be in if the sections end up going. Bromley86 (talk) 13:43, 3 October 2015 (UTC)

If it must be in, then at least get it right. The largest pocket was first claimed (and is still claimed) by Paraduin. Rothly (talk) 15:47, 3 October 2015 (UTC)
Support? Bromley86 (talk) 20:00, 3 October 2015 (UTC)
Quite a few micronations claimed the pockets before what the article makes it out to be. South Maudlandia and Humanytaria both claim areas of pocket 3 but they don't have any evidence other than a few primary sources. That's the reason why only Liberland, Enclava and Ongal are mentioned. Still, if Paraduin was to be mentioned it would make sense to note these as well. I think there was an Autistic state as well, but It's extremely inactive. I can get you any evidence if need be. Also, can we trust this Bulgarian news network? Humshom (talk) 20:33, 3 October 2015 (UTC)
Good point. I'd glanced at the WP entry, but, looking at it properly, the WP article was almost entirely unsupported. So it's probably not the best source for this sort of thing. Bromley86 (talk) 21:05, 3 October 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for drawing my attention to this discussion. The section about "Land portions along the Danube river" is factually incorrect. The cited sources state exactly the opposite that it is not Terra nullis.

In any case, regardless of the fact that the border has not yet been finally determined, the area concerned does not involve no man’s land (terra nullius) which could be subject to occupation by a third party.

"On Virtual Narratives at Croatia’s Borders". Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. 17 July 2015. Endnote

Please revert to the last version to remove factual inaccuracy and original research. Thanks! Mootros (talk) 07:52, 20 October 2015 (UTC)

The question remains though, whether the Croatian point of view is the (only) one to follow. To the best of my knowledge there is no international law that says disputed areas that aren't part of either side's claim can't be claimed by third parties, but I'm not entirely sure about that. Rothly (talk) 22:08, 20 October 2015 (UTC)
Terra nullis is a pre 19th century concept when places on this earth were not claimed and does not apply to border disputes as a result of geopolitical changes. The fact that several claims (legitimate or not) exist makes it entirely obsolete to talk about unclaimed land. It might not be even desirable to include these this case in a trivia section of article that someone is making a case for a micro nation by invoking this historical concept. Mootros (talk) 01:00, 22 October 2015 (UTC)

As confusion seems to remain,the article clearly states that Terra nullis requires some form of discovery that precedes anything else. This makes it impossible to talk about Terra nullis after the geopolitical changes in 20th century Europe. There was no discovery of some land portions along the Danube river, after it was supposedly abandoned. Mootros (talk) 01:20, 22 October 2015 (UTC)

Since the 19th century the most generous settled view has been that discovery accompanied by symbolic acts give no more than "an inchoate title, an option, as against other states, to consolidate the first steps by proceeding to effective occupation within a reasonable time.

I. Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law 146 (4th ed.1990)

Unclaimed land is identical to terra nullis. Land that is not claimed is terra nullis. The circumstances surrounding the manner in which the land is unclaimed is irrelevant. The danube areas are clearly terra nullis if they are unclaimed, and the published boundry claim lines clearly show there are unclaimed areas and therefore are terra nullis.XavierGreen (talk) 15:14, 18 November 2015 (UTC)
It's not what our sources say. Mootros (talk) 01:14, 19 November 2015 (UTC)
None of the sources you cited have stated otherwise.XavierGreen (talk) 15:17, 20 November 2015 (UTC)
The standard definition of terra nullis is unclaimed territory. See here [[3]], [[4]], ect.XavierGreen, [[5]] (talk) 15:20, 20 November 2015 (UTC)
Terra nullis involves discovery only in that the land must not be unknown, ie something that is terra nullis must be known to the world. It would be impossible for a country to claim land that it does not know exists.XavierGreen (talk) 15:34, 20 November 2015 (UTC)

The legal definition clearly states that some for of discovery proceeds the act of claiming terra nullis. Hence since there is no undiscovered places left on earth left, a place that has been abandoned ---after a border dispute--- cannot be terra nullis. This is precisely the case because there is no discovery of an unclaimed land. It's merely a border dispute. Legal theory and practice do not support any of the cases you are trying to include in this article. Mootros (talk) 16:02, 22 November 2015 (UTC)

A parcel of land that is unclaimed is not disputed, if it were it would be the subject of multiple claims.XavierGreen (talk) 19:44, 23 November 2015 (UTC)
The lead section says the term describes "territory which has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state, or over which any prior sovereign has expressly or implicitly relinquished sovereignty". Yugoslavia never expressly relinquished sovereignty over these patches of land. The successor states to Yugoslavia entered into a dispute over the interpretation of their borders. Is that an act of implicit relinquishing of anything according to international law? Esp. if we have an explicit claim of one of those states claiming the contrary. Can we get a reference to a reliable secondary source that corroborates this claim? --Joy [shallot] (talk) 19:33, 17 February 2016 (UTC)
Also, this is all prefaced under international law, whose disputes concern sovereign states, or at least territorial entities. How do claims from entities that are not widely recognized as territorial or sovereign make any sense under international law? --Joy [shallot] (talk) 19:39, 17 February 2016 (UTC)

      • I think it is important to keep in mind that terra nullius -- land that belongs to no one, that is unclaimed -- carries an implicit understanding of who the "no one" consists of....that is to say, which states or entities are the determining bodies. For colonial powers, the land that "belongs to no one" would be land that is discovered and does not yet belong to another colonial (European) power. It doesn't matter whether OTHER PEOPLES are living on the land -- in the New World or Australia -- just that other European powers haven't found it or claimed it yet. Thus, if you are the first one in your European group to "find" Siam or "find" Cambodia or "find" can lay claim to it as terra nullius...even if there are hundreds of thousands of people living in advanced cities on the land. It is claimed "by no one" of your preferred group. Now, in the 21st century, the preferred group includes all UN member states, rather than just the Great Powers of Europe. Chesspride (talk) 07:58, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

Bir Tawil[edit]

Please participate in the discussion here. IMHO, Bir Tawil isn't a Terra Nullius so it shouldn't be given as an example here. ImTheIP (talk) 17:34, 8 June 2017 (UTC)

It doesn't seem like I'm getting my way about delisting Bir Tawil, so I have added a footnote instead. ImTheIP (talk) 10:53, 6 August 2017 (UTC)

Lead Sentence is Problematic[edit]

So the first sentence of the article is:

Terra nullius (/ˈtɛrə.nʌˈlaɪəs/, plural terrae nullius) is a Latin expression deriving from Roman law meaning "nobody's land",[1] which is used in international law to describe territory which has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state, or over which any prior sovereign has expressly or implicitly relinquished sovereignty.

Of course it is a necessary condition for any territory to be considered terra nullius that no state is claiming it. But it is not a sufficient condition. The article cites cases in Canada and Australia which the court has rejected the terra nullius claim, despite there being no sovereign state claiming the land. The ICJ has ruled similarly in the case of Western Sahara when it rejected Morocco's claim to the land based on the terra nullius principle.

I note that the lead was changed way back in 2009 and it hasn't been discussed since then. I therefore propose that it be updated to read:

Terra nullius (/ˈtɛrə.nʌˈlaɪəs/, plural terrae nullius) is a Latin expression deriving from Roman law meaning "nobody's land" and is a principle sometimes used in international law for territory that may be acquired by a state's occupation of it.

Because this is consistent with the definition given in Black's Law Dictionary. It would also be nice to add a history section to the article as the meaning of the expression has changed a lot over the years. See this article for example for an overview. ImTheIP (talk) 19:29, 8 June 2017 (UTC)

I've written the history section which I think this article is missing. Would you be so kind as to review it? You can find it here: ImTheIP (talk) 02:10, 14 June 2017 (UTC)

In User:ImTheIP/History:_Terra_Nullius, Frost is NOT saying that "Terra Nullius" was a justification for seizing any and all land that an empire happened to want (which is what your lead-in sentence seems to say), but rather poses an example of a territory basically inhabited by only by "bands" without settled agriculture (in terms of the anthropological band-tribe-chiefdom-state classification system). See the comments of "06:44, 10 August 2010" and "11:16, 4 August 2011" above on this page for an analysis in similar terms... AnonMoos (talk) 16:22, 16 June 2017 (UTC)
I suppose you are right. I have now added the history section to the article and I hope it fairly summarizes the different viewpoints. ImTheIP (talk) 13:03, 4 August 2017 (UTC)

Wrong claims of terra nullius[edit]

I removed the Dixon Entrance and the Outer Space sections from the article. Terra means earth and neither celestial bodies nor international waters fit the definition. They are instead res communis. I can not find any credible terra nullius claims for either concept. It all links back to this Wikipedia article. ImTheIP (talk) 14:29, 4 August 2017 (UTC)

The Croatia-Serbia border and Croatia–Slovenia border sections appear to be the same. It is clear from reading the articles that neither of these contain any real terra nullius and no one in their right mind believes they do. Except for the "jokers" who created the micronations Liberland, Kingdom of Enclava and Autia. I don't think they carry enough weight to be listed here. At least the person who created Sealand has been running with it for several decades, these guys have not. ImTheIP (talk) 15:06, 4 August 2017 (UTC) I'm not in favor of your edits. Even if Canada, Australia and West Sahara never was terra nullius, the legal debates that arose from these cases are important to the article. They serve as example of what courts have decided that terra nullius is not. ImTheIP (talk) 20:01, 12 August 2017 (UTC)

I am of the same opinion. Jeff in CA (talk) 02:55, 14 August 2017 (UTC)


The given pronunciation seems off: /ˈtɛrə.nʌˈlaɪəs/ ≈ "TER-ah nuh-LYE-us". Is that diphthong in "nullius" a standard pronunciation used in legal circles?

1) If we're going from English phonology, it should be: /ˌtɛɹə ˈnʌliːəs/ ≈ "TER-ah NULL-ee-us".

2) Separately, there's a syllable break marker in between the words, which is weird. There should either be no syllable breaks at all (probably with a space between the words for readability), or full proper syllabification (i.e. /ˌtɛɹ.ə ˈnʌl.iː.əs/).

I'd greatly appreciate any references citing the given pronunciation, especially if there's some reasoning included, or any adjustments to my proposed transcription.

jFiander (talk) 15:04, 17 August 2017 (UTC)

I found this pronunciation guide on youtube: But I can't vouch for its veracity. ImTheIP (talk) 18:57, 17 August 2017 (UTC)
Jfiander -- the phrase isn't included in my old standby, the Daniel Jones "English Pronouncing Dictionary". However, [nʌliːəs] would be a specifically American type of pronunciation, for which the corresponding British RP form would be [nʌlɪəs].. AnonMoos (talk) 16:00, 19 August 2017 (UTC)

External links modified (January 2018)[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified 5 external links on Terra nullius. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, you may follow the instructions on the template below to fix any issues with the URLs.

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 00:13, 22 January 2018 (UTC)