A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

Book - 1997
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The codfish. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been spurred by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it, and the settlement of North America was driven by it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious than gold. Indeed, the codfish has played a fascinating and crucial role in world history.

Cod spans a thousand years and four continents. From the Vikings, who pursued the codfish across the Atlantic, and the enigmatic Basques, who first commercialized it in medieval times, to Bartholomew Gosnold, who named Cape Cod in 1602, and Clarence Birdseye, who founded an industry on frozen cod in the 1930s, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, merchants, writers, chefs, and of course the fishermen, whose lives have interwoven with this prolific fish. He chronicles the fifteenth-century politics of the Hanseatic League and the cod wars of the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. He embellishes his story with gastronomic detail, blending in recipes and lore from the Middle Ages to the present.
And he brings to life the cod itself: its personality, habits, extended family, and ultimately the tragedy of how the most profitable fish in history is today faced with extinction.

From fishing ports in New England and Newfoundland to coastal skiffs, schooners, and factory ships across the Atlantic; from Iceland and Scandinavia to the coasts of England, Brazil, and West Africa, Mark Kurlansky tells a story that brings world history and human passions into captivating focus.

Publisher: New York : Walker and Co., 1997
ISBN: 9780802713261
Branch Call Number: 333.956633 KURLANSKY
Characteristics: viii, 294 p. : ill., maps (some col) ; 20 cm


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Feb 21, 2018

Highly informative and very entertaining story. Who knew the lowly Codfish could have had such a great story to tell. Highly recommend it. Well worth your time!

Mar 29, 2015

A fascinating, absorbing book about a seemingly mundane fish. Also see the same author's book about salt.

NewtonFallsReads Oct 06, 2011

Great read from a favorite author. I never new one little fish could have such an impact on world history and politics.

Aug 28, 2010

The history of cod fishing and the story of greed, ignorance and technology that reduced the fish to near extinction in 500 years.
This book offers the personal view of the fishing industry, even offering the fishers' personal recipes, as well as the larger historical context that placed the modern fishers in their tenuous situation today.

Jun 18, 2010

Very good book. Anyone who thinks that history is boring should read this book and see how interesting well-told history can be.

The book is what it purports to be, namely a history of the codfish from early times up to the era of commercial fishing and near-extinction.


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Feb 08, 2019

This book is about the history of this very influential and tasty fish! Cod seems to be mostly fished in the Atlantic, so the story follows how European fisherman from hundreds of years ago discovered special areas where this fish was most likely to be caught. It explains how Cod became such an important staple of various cultures' diets. One interesting fact: it explains how the search for this valuable fish may have helped lead Europeans to the Americas, where there are rich cod-fishing banks near Maine and Canada. Sadly, this book also tells the tale of how overfishing and modern fishing trawlers have brought this fish to near extinction.

I got this book from my friend Andy Schroeder who had previously let me borrow another unusual food based book entitled simply Oranges. Oranges was better, but Cod was pretty interesting too. I'm interested in food, nature, and the environment, so as sad as it is to learn about our problems with overconsumption, I do want to be aware of the truth, and this book supplied plenty.


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