31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
A good read,
By A Customer
This review is from: Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (Paperback)
Kulansky undoubted enthusiasm for the subject shines through in the book; most people's perception of a book on fish would be to leave it on the shelf. However Kurlansky brings to life a fish, which has in a large yet often unrecognised way shaped the fate of the modern world. Interspersed with recipe ideas the book focuses on Cod, which was once regarded as one of the most abundant food sources. However due to mans ignorance and disregard the cod is fast becoming an endangered quantity. Kulansky delves into the history of the cod fisheries, which date back to medieval times. In fact before Columbus found America in 1492, the Basques had been fishing the coast off America for Cod and undoubtedly had discovered land over five hundred years before Columbus.
The book paints very vivid pictures of the way in which cod involved as part of trade restrictions help stoke the fire of American independence, played its role in the slave trade, and contributed to numerous stands offs and confrontations between countries. In fact the legendary cod wars of the 1970's between Iceland and the United Kingdom, are only recent additions to the ongoing dispute between nations over fishing grounds. In the 1480's the Hanseatic League, which was formed to stand up for the merchant class in northern German towns prevented Bristol merchants from buying Icelandic cod.
The wealth of some of modern days most powerful and influential nations primarily the United States and Canada, originated from cod resources. In fact cod played such an important part in creating the wealth of many of the first American aristocrats, it was often idealised by those Americans that had become rich on this once abundance resource. Many of the first American coins issued from 1776 to 1778 had codfish on them. When the first American aristocrats built their mansions they decorated them with codfish.
Kulansky also delves into the harsh reality of the dangers and the reality faced by trawler men especially before modern fishing methods were adopted. Many fishermen would lose limbs, due to frostbite, many of the early fishing boats were extremely unstable and a large percentage of men drowned at sea. Even today with the high attention to safety fishing is still one of the most precarious trades, a British survey in 1983 showed the death rate among British fisherman to be twenty times higher than in manufacturing.
Kulansky ends the book with a poignant look at the lost of cod stocks in the sea, focusing on the virtual disappearance of the cod stock around Newfoundland which was once the largest cod fishery in the world. Mans disregard and belief that nature is an unlimited resource over 1000 years has caused devastation and the disappearance of one of mans last wild natural food resource.
This book is extremely interesting read, with many fascinating facts. The book will definitely change peoples perception of Cod, and to my amazement, the cod is a fish that really did change the world.