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Towards Terra Nova: The North Atlantic Fisheries and the Atlantic World, 1490-1600

Bouchard, Jack (2018) Towards Terra Nova: The North Atlantic Fisheries and the Atlantic World, 1490-1600. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the first years of the sixteenth century mariners from across the European seaboard created a flourishing commercial cod fishery in the northwest Atlantic. Today known as the Newfoundland fishery, it represents one of the oldest ways in which Europeans interacted with and transformed the Atlantic Ocean. Yet the earliest years of this process, the crucial century in which the first fisheries were organized and expanded, remain poorly understood and marginalized in the wider literature on European expansion into the Atlantic basin. This dissertation aims to provide a new history of the Newfoundland fishery in the sixteenth century, one which approaches the subject from a broad perspective rather than the narrow national or economic frameworks which have dominated the scholarship on the fisheries.
In reconstructing the lives and behavior of European fishermen at Newfoundland in the sixteenth century, this study approaches the northwest Atlantic from the perspective of the multinational groups of fishermen and the communities in which they were embedded. It reconstructs the ways in which mariners worked at and thought about the fishery, including their articulation of a maritime space called Terra Nova as an alternative to Newfoundland. In so doing, it argues that historians have consistently under-valued the importance of Newfoundland fishery as a branch of transoceanic commerce. By the mid-sixteenth century the scale of the fishery rivaled trade to the Americas, and fish from Newfoundland provided a crucial source of protein for Europe during times of food insecurity. Yet despite its scale, the social, economic, environmental and legal structures of the fishery diverged significantly from the rest of the sixteenth century Atlantic. In a watery world without colonies or imperial claims, and marked by sharp environmental constraints, mariners at Newfoundland effectively operated as an extension of late medieval Europe. In short, the Newfoundland fishery was outside of the Atlantic while being at the center of European maritime activity. In exploring these themes and the unusual structures at the heart of the fishery, this dissertation suggests that the Newfoundland fishery provides an important conceptual problem for how we study early European expansion into the Atlantic.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Bouchard, JackJbb42@pitt.eduJbb42
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRediker, Marcus
Committee MemberRøge, Pernille
Committee MemberWarsh, Molly
Committee MemberPastore, Christopher
Date: 26 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 23 April 2018
Approval Date: 26 September 2018
Submission Date: 22 May 2018
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 345
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Newfoundland, Fisheries, Iceland, Canada, History of Fishing, History of Food, Cod, Cod fisheries, Terra Nova, Nova Scotia, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Whaling
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2018 21:42
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2023 05:15


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