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The Fisherman's Cause
Atlantic Commerce and Maritime Dimensions of the American Revolution


  • Date Published: January 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107403970

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About the Authors
  • This book examines the connections between the commercial fishing industry in colonial America and the American Revolution, Christopher P. Magra places the origins and progress of this formative event in a wider Atlantic context. The Fisherman's Cause utilizes extensive research from archives in the United States, Canada, and the UK in order to take this Atlantic approach. Dried, salted cod represented the most lucrative export in New England. The fishing industry connected colonial producers to transatlantic markets in the Iberian Peninsula and the West Indies. Parliament's coercive regulation of this branch of colonial maritime commerce contributed to colonists' willingness to engage in a variety of revolutionary activities. Colonists then used the sea to resist British authority. Fish merchants converted transatlantic trade routes into military supply lines, and they transformed fishing vessels into warships. Fishermen armed and manned the first American Navy, served in the first coast guard units, and fought on privateers. These maritime activities helped secure American independence.

    • Places the American Revolution within the wider context of the Atlantic World
    • Offers a maritime interpretation of the Revolution, offering a perspective on the Revolution that no other book has studied
    • It gives agency to maritime laborers, an important and often neglected part of the history of the Revolution
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'Christopher Magra demonstrates the significance of the Atlantic context during the era of the American Revolution. He examines the economic importance of New England's Atlantic fishery and how the British government's attempts to curb that enterprise led directly to American independence. Magra also reveals the signal contributions that Massachusetts fishermen and fish merchants made to the origins of the United States Navy. Thoroughly researched and clearly written, The Fisherman's Cause will appeal to anyone interested in the Atlantic world and the American Revolution as well as students of economic, maritime, and naval history.' Carl E. Swanson, East Carolina University

    Review of the hardback: 'The Fisherman's Cause is a welcome reminder that America is a sea-minded nation. Native Americans turned to the sea for sustenance along the shore and in nearby shallow waters. For European settlers the Atlantic was both a highway to the Old World and a moat protecting them from it. The Atlantic was also a vast green pasture to which they ventured harvesting fish. Measured in quintals and packed in barrels these enterprising yankees marketed 'sacred cod' around the Atlantic world. Dancing across the ocean fishermen, seamen, and merchants established a sophisticated network of trade that generated profits used to fuel the extraordinary growth of the colonial economy. When this prosperous world was threatened by the acts of a clumsy imperial administration these traders and fishermen defended their interests and fought for American independence. Magra's story, well told and well documented, is essential reading if we are to understand the role of the sea in establishing the American republic.' William M. Fowler, Northeastern University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107403970
    • length: 254 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Rise of the Colonial Cod Fisheries:
    1. Fish
    2. Fish merchants
    3. Fishermen
    Part II. Atlantic Origins of the American Revolutionary War:
    4. Cod and the Atlantic economy
    5. Atlantic business competition and the political economy of cod: part one
    6. Atlantic business competition and the political economy of cod: part two
    7. The New England trade and fisheries act
    Part III. The Military Mobilization of the Fishing Industry:
    8. From trade routes to supply lines
    9. The first American navy
    10. Starving the enemy and feeding the troops
    11. From fishermen to fighting men

  • Author

    Christopher P. Magra, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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