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The New England Cod Fishing Industry and Maritime Dimensions of the American Revolution

Magra, Christopher Paul (2006) The New England Cod Fishing Industry and Maritime Dimensions of the American Revolution. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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THE NEW ENGLAND COD FISHING INDUSTRY AND MARITIME DIMENSIONS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONChristopher Paul Magra, PhDUniversity of Pittsburgh, 2006 The American Revolution cannot be fully understood without coming to terms with why workers and merchants within the New England cod fishing industry resisted British authority and how their labor and capital contributed to the war effort. The Revolution began in New England with the shot heard around the world in Concord, Massachusetts. New England provided the most manpower for the American military each and every year of the war. And cod represented the most lucrative trade good in all of colonial New England. Between 1768 and 1772, fish represented 35% of New England's total export revenue. The second most valuable export commodity, livestock, represented only 20% of this revenue stream. By 1775, an estimated 10,000 New Englanders, or 8% of the adult male working population, labored in the fishing industry. Yet, to date there has not been a systematic effort to investigate the relationship between this vital colonial industry and the Revolutionary War. In order to get at the linkages between the worlds of commerce and the way of war I triangulated data culled from merchant ledgers, ship's log books, customs records, shipping records, diaries, newspapers, and military service records. Drawing on these sources, the dissertation defends a two-fold argument. First, economic competition between vested interests in the British Empire, principally New England fish merchants, West Country fish merchants, and West Indian sugar planters, resulted in a series of commercial regulations and naval police actions aimed at restricting New England's economic expansion. These regulations and actions culminated in the British state's fateful decision in 1775 to close the New England cod fishing industry, which ultimately motivated colonists to go to war. Second, fishermen and fish merchants played key roles in winning the war. Merchants converted trade routes into military supply lines and transformed their fishing vessels into warships. Fishermen armed and manned the first American navy, served in the first coast guard units, manned privateers, and fought on land. These multi-faceted efforts helped secure American independence.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Magra, Christopher Paulchm5@pitt.eduCHM5
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRediker, Marcusred1@pitt.eduRED1
Committee MemberHoldsworth,
Committee MemberScott, Jonathanjos15@pitt.eduJOS15
Committee MemberHall, Van Beckvanbeck@pitt.eduVANBECK
Date: 29 September 2006
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 25 May 2006
Approval Date: 29 September 2006
Submission Date: 31 May 2006
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
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: American Navy; Atlantic economy; Atlantic history; labor; trade
Other ID:, etd-05312006-104527
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:46
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:44


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