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The North Atlantic Fish Revolution (ca. AD 1500)

  • Poul Holm (a1), Francis Ludlow (a1), Cordula Scherer (a1), Charles Travis (a1), Bernard Allaire (a1), Cristina Brito (a1), Patrick W. Hayes (a1), J. Al Matthews (a1), Kieran J. Rankin (a1), Richard J. Breen (a1), Robert Legg (a1), Kevin Lougheed (a1) and John Nicholls (a1)...


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.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work

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The North Atlantic Fish Revolution (ca. AD 1500)

  • Poul Holm (a1), Francis Ludlow (a1), Cordula Scherer (a1), Charles Travis (a1), Bernard Allaire (a1), Cristina Brito (a1), Patrick W. Hayes (a1), J. Al Matthews (a1), Kieran J. Rankin (a1), Richard J. Breen (a1), Robert Legg (a1), Kevin Lougheed (a1) and John Nicholls (a1)...


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