In the Fishing Revolution, capital in pursuit of profit organized human labor to turn living creatures into an immense accumulation of commodities. From 1600 on, up to 250,000 metric tons of cod a year were caught, processed, and preserved in Newfoundland and transported across the ocean for sale.
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 sixteenth centuries.
But for the merchants who were the primary promoters, financiers and often warriors on the English side, it was an economic war — if they had read von Clausewitz, they might have said that their war was business conducted by other means.
While treasure fleets carried silver to Spain, far more ships were carrying men, fish and whale oil across the North Atlantic.
An important factor in the rise of the Dutch merchant-industrialist class, scarcely mentioned in many accounts, was the absolute dominance of the Dutch fishing industry in the North Sea.