This article outlines a process of enclosing private property on the Arabian Sea through the colonial imposition of secure property rights during the nineteenth century. The article proceeds in two paralleled sections. The first section explores the violence of the natural world through the lens of shipwrecks. It traces a shift in the right to shipwrecked property from littoral communities to the merchants who owned the cargo before it was seized by the waves. The second section traces the shift from merchants who deployed violence as an essential tool in commercial competition, to relying on the British Empire for the security of their property and the strategic use of force. On the one hand, both these transitions involve the imposition of classical political economy and the colonial seizure of protection rents obtained by merchants. However, they also reflect the ways in which maritime potentates and influential merchants were able to co-opt imperial policies and profit from this transition. Over the course of the nineteenth century, violent coercion was expunged from the skillset of Arabian Sea merchants, but only after compensating merchants and coastal communities for relinquishing the profits of protection.

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