Dr Julia Leikin

Prize law, maritime neutrality, and the law of nations in Imperial Russia, 1768-1856

Julia is a PhD Candidate in History at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies, where she works on the history of international law and legal history of the Russian empire. Her dissertation examines the development and use of prize law – an aspect of the law of nations which sanctions the legal capture of ships and their cargo by warring nations – by the Russian empire from the 1760s to the 1850s. Examining Russia’s development of this legal concept as a method of control over the Baltic and Black Seas challenges traditional narratives that portray Russia as a land-based empire with military strength, but few of the liberal values that should accompany the notions of due process and justice implicit in the institution of a prize court.  In fact, the period in question was a crucial one for Russian legal development, culminating in an unprecedented codification project. From the standpoint of prize law, the project examines the expansion of the Russian empire’s admiralty jurisdiction and its use of law to exercise control over the empire’s maritime borders. Prize law reflected and shaped the empire’s maritime politics during a turbulent era of wars and revolutions, but its development was also a product of political, social, and economic forces at play within the Russian empire. Through a thorough examination of cases, the dissertation shows the legal logic underpinning maritime violence and commerce raiding under the imperial Russian flag.
Julia holds degrees in History and German from Georgetown University, an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and an MA in History from New York University. She is also interested in contemporary Russian politics and foreign policy.