Fishing: How the sea fed civilization

Brian Fagan, emeritus professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, writes about humanity’s last major source of food from the wild, and how it enabled and shaped the growth of civilization. Published by the Yale University Press, this book chronicles the history of the long interaction of humans and seafood at the archaeological sites worldwide. This highlights how fishing fed human settlement, rising social complexity, the development of cities, and ultimately the modern world.

In this history of fishing, Fagan argues that fishing was an indispensable and often overlooked element in the growth of civilization. It sustainably provided enough food to allow cities, nations, and empires to grow, but it did so with a different emphasis. Where agriculture encouraged stability, fishing demanded movement. It frequently required a search for new and better fishing grounds; its technologies, centred on boats, facilitated movement and discovery; and fish themselves, when dried and salted, were the ideal food—lightweight, nutritious, and long-lasting—for traders, travellers, and conquering armies.

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