The container theory of space is a metaphysical theory according to which space is a background against which objects rest and move, with the implication that it can continue to exist in the absence of matter. Its opposite is the relational theory. Newton favoured absolute time and space and the container theory, against Leibniz who was a relationist. The subject was famously debated in the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence.
At first glance, the physical theory of relativity weighs in favour of relational space, but the general theory of relativity re-introduces some container-like features such as the possibility of completely empty universes. 
- Space and Subtle Matter in Descartes's Metaphysics by Bennett, Jonathan New Essays on the Rationalists, February 2003 , pp. 3-26(24) Oxford Scholarship Online Monographs 
- "The Metaphysics of Space-Time Substantivalism" by Carl Hoefer The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 93, No. 1 (Jan., 1996), pp. 5-27 available at JSTOR
- Physics and Metaphysics: Theories of Space and Time By Jennifer Trusted Routledge, 1991 ISBN 0-415-05948-8