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This volume deals with the contested legal status of the Paracels and the Spratlys, two inhospitable archipelagos located in the South China Sea, sovereignty over which is disputed by several states. The author investigates the contribution which international law can make towards determining the rights of all parties involved. In order to do so she goes back into history to find out at each stage what the actual situation was and what its legal significance was in terms of the legal categories of the time. The author analyzes not only French archives, but also existing legal writings as a basis for the investigation into the status of the archipelagos.