Reproduction of traditional salt cod fishery

Intensive Fishing and the Birth of Capitalism, Part 4

By Ian Angus, Climate & Capitalism

Ed. note: Parts 1, 2, and 3 can be found on Resilience.org. Centuries before the industrial revolution, the first factories transformed seafood production Marxist historians have been debating the origin of capitalism since the 1940s. It is true, as Eric Hobsbawm once commented, that “ nobody has seriously maintained that capitalism prevailed before the 16th century, or that feudalism prevailed after the late 18th,”[1] but despite years of vigorous discussion in many excellent books and articles, there is still no consensus on when, where and how the new system formed and became dominant.[2] This article does not try to resolve the debate or propose a new grand narrative. My goal, rather, is to draw attention to an important aspect of early capitalism that has been almost entirely ignored by all of the participants: the development and growth of intensive fishing in the North Sea and northwestern Atlantic Ocean in the fifteenth and...

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