The North Atlantic Fish Revolution (ca. AD 1500)

Poul Holm, Cristina Brito, Richard Breen, Francis Ludlow, Cordula Scherer, Charles Travis, Bernard Allaire, Patrick W. Hayes, J. Al Matthews, Kieran J. Rankin, Robert Legg, Kevin Lougheed, John Nicholls

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We propose the concept of the “Fish Revolution” to demarcate the dramatic increase in North Atlantic fisheries after AD
1500, which led to a 15-fold increase of cod (Gadus morhua) catch volumes and likely a tripling of fish protein to the European
market.We consider three key questions: (1) What were the environmental parameters of the Fish Revolution? (2) What
were the globalising effects of the Fish Revolution? (3) What were the consequences of the Fish Revolution for fishing communities?
While these questions would have been considered unknowable a decade or two ago, methodological developments
in marine environmental history and historical ecology have moved information about both supply and demand
into the realm of the discernible. Although much research remains to be done, we conclude that this was a major event in
the history of resource extraction from the sea, mediated by forces of climate change and globalisation, and is likely to provide
a fruitful agenda for future multidisciplinary research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalQuaternary Research
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • North Atlantic;
  • Fish Revolution
  • Climate change
  • Settlements
  • Market integration
  • Early modern history


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