How Cod Changed the World based on the book Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky

Essay by oxide85High School, 12th gradeB, November 2009

download word file, 2 pages 3.0

Ever since the period of the Vikings, cod fish has played a tremendous role in the world, more specifically Europe and the Americas. Mark Kurlansky explores all of the different effects cod has had on the world in his book Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. The seemingly normal fish is responsible for a great amount of exploration, migration, and can be blamed for starting a few wars. Many fishermen fishing for cod have found great riches, while others suffered serious injuries, some even losing their lives at sea. The cod certainly has shaped our world’s history, creating the world we live in today.

Even before Columbus “discovered” the Americas, it is suspected that the Basques had been fishing for cod from the Great Banks for many years (18). Europeans had access to cod on European shores, but not in the amounts that they saw while trading with the Basques.

While in search of finding a westward route to Asia in 1497, John Cabot, under his voyage for Henry VII of England, came across the rocky shores of Newfoundland. He reported a great amount of cod fish and an excellent rocky coastline for drying and salting fish (28). He claimed this land for England, and thirty-seven years later, French explorer Jacques Cartier found and claimed the mouth of the St. Lawrence for France (29). For hundreds of years to come, several different nations would try to gain access to these fishing grounds.

During the eighteenth century, cod had fed New England’s previous hunger. Colonists were also getting many goods from trading cod such as wine, iron, coal, sugar, molasses, tobacco, cotton, and even slaves (81). The New Englanders demanded more molasses for making rum, and began trading with the French. In 1733, in attempt to...