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New Medieval Books: The Catch

The Catch: An Environmental History of Medieval European Fisheries

By Richard C. Hoffmann

Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 978-1-108-95820-2

A comprehensive examination of fishing in medieval Europe, including how they were caught, how they went from sea (or river) to market, and what happened when overfishing led to scarcities.


The Catch explores historic interactions between two dynamic communities, namely the human societies and the aquatic ecosystems of Europe during western Christendom’s medieval millennium, roughly 500–1500 CE. The book traces common patterns, variants, and changes over time in medieval experiences exploiting Europe’s diverse fish populations. Human desires, abilities, and impacts played off in sometimes unexpected ways against changing aquatic habitats and fish stocks. Unsatisfied wants and newly available opportunities transformed social and environmental relations, affecting people’s experiences of their natural surroundings then and in a much longer term. The Middle Ages look somewhat different when viewed from the water and so do present-day issues in fisheries science and management when seen in perspective of a thousand years long past. One catch for author and readers alike is the difference between discourses of interdisciplinary natural science and of interdisciplinary medieval studies. But that is inherent in environmental history, history studied as if nature matters. This enterprise must aspire to mediate between the two conversations.


Who is this book for?

This 500+ page book, written by the foremost expert in the field, can be considered the definitive text on the medieval fishing industry. Those interested in environmental history will want this book, as those who research trade or food in the Middle Ages.

The author

Richard C. Hoffmann is Professor Emeritus in History at York University. He has been leading expert on medieval environmental history long before it became a fashionable topic, and his specialty within this field is fishing. Click here to view university profile.


To learn more about this book, please visit the publisher’s website

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