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During the Middle Ages, how many people could fishing feed?

During the Middle Ages, how many people could fishing feed?

I known fishing was pretty popular in the middle-age.

But I don't know how many people could be fed by a single fisher?

I'd like to know it mostly for river fishing but I'm also interested by sea fishing. I'm thinking about small villages with local fishing to ensure food supply.


  • Period: Early Middle age
  • Location: Small isolated village (~250 people)
  • Environment: Large river with plenty of fish

I'm looking for an average number (don't take in account the competition factor).

In the year 1289, King Philip IV of France was worried about fish. “Each and every watershed of our realm,” he proclaimed, “large and small, yields nothing due to the evil of fishers.”

(The Atlantic (2019)

The medieval period is much too long to provide a definitive answer to your question. Besides, there often wasn't such a thing as 'a single fisher'. Often enough, you'd see fishing villages, villages that exported fish. Or fishing guilds. Fishing families. Especially seaside when requiring a boat to fish. You don't operate a fishing boat by yourself. When setting fishing traps and weirs with a group of people, how much was caught by whom?

When you consider river fish, you probably won't catch the same fish year-round. During the summer months, salmon moves up the river to spawn. The more watermills were built, the less salmon was caught.

Some of what we know about medieval fishery comes from the area of Colchester (UK), near the river Colne and relatively near the Channel. There has been fishery in all kinds of forms since at least 800 AD, years later they even had their own oysters. In (and after) the late medieval period, small wars have been fought about fishing rights and over-fishing there. If you're looking for historical records, I'd think that area to be a good start. Perhaps the Domesday Book has usable information for you as well.

How much fish they'd actually catch would depend on many factors, among which the amount of organization, their tools used (hooks, nets and traps were already used quite extensively in some places during the middle medieval period) and the local fish-population (which would vary quite a bit).

In the end, it matters not. You ask:

But I don't know how many people could be fed by a single fisher?

Not many. If fish would be all they ate, they'd eventually die of malnutrition. They would require bread as well. So you'd need a farmer, and hunter/gatherers both for hunting mammals/fowl and gathering fruit/vegetables.

How Poaching Works

Poaching ­has been illegal for hundreds of years, but it was during the Late Middle Ages that poaching became a punishable offense. During this time, the right to hunt was limited to landowners and nobility. Peasants usually did not have weapons, skills or the extra time to hunt, so in order to provide food for their families they devised another way to bring meat to their tables, including snares [source: NationMaster].

­While hunting was reserved for the privileged, it was illegal to buy and sell wild animals. It remained illegal to do so until the mid-1800s. Gangs of poachers formed outlaw bands and sold animals through the black market. Buyers of black-market food even included wealthy people, who could not or chose not to hunt on their own.

As rural poverty was prevalent in the 1700s, many people turned to poaching just to survive. Commoners protected poachers as an act of rebellion, because food was so scarce. Though poaching gangs did provide food to the poor, they were also violent and often greedy, poaching to feed the black market more so than hungry peasants.

Because authorities could not depend on citizens to turn in poachers, they created traps and spring-guns that would maim or kill poachers. In the 1830s, traps and spring guns were deemed illegal, and in 1883, peasants were allowed to kill small game, such as hares and rabbits, on their own farms [source: Scribd].

Have poaching issues changed since the Middle Ages? Indeed, they have. Move on to find out how modern poaching differs from the poaching of the days of Robin Hood.

Early government officials thought that all non-private lands belonged to the government, so the government owned it and its resources. Today, non-private land is considered public land, and its resources are available for all to enjoy, provided that federal, state and local regulations and restrictions do not deter it.


Fishing is an ancient practice that dates back at least to the Upper Paleolithic period which began about 40,000 years ago. [3] [4] Isotopic analysis of the skeletal remains of Tianyuan man, a 40,000-year-old modern human from eastern Asia, has shown that he regularly consumed freshwater fish. [5] [6] Archaeological features such as shell middens, [7] discarded fish bones and cave paintings show that sea foods were important for survival and consumed in significant quantities. During this period, most people lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and were, of necessity, constantly on the move. However, where there are early examples of permanent settlements (though not necessarily permanently occupied) such as those at Lepenski Vir, they are almost always associated with fishing as a major source of food.

Spearfishing with barbed poles (harpoons) was widespread in palaeolithic times. [8] Cosquer cave in Southern France contains cave art over 16,000 years old, including drawings of seals which appear to have been harpooned.

The Neolithic culture and technology spread worldwide between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago. With the new technologies of farming and pottery came basic forms of the main fishing methods that are still used today.

From 7500 to 3000 years ago, Native Americans of the California coast were known to engage in fishing with gorge hook and line tackle. [9] In addition, some tribes are known to have used plant toxins to induce torpor in stream fish to enable their capture. [10]

Copper harpoons were known to the seafaring Harappans [11] well into antiquity. [12] Early hunters in India include the Mincopie people, aboriginal inhabitants of India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, who have used harpoons with long cords for fishing since early times. [13]

The ancient river Nile was full of fish fresh and dried fish were a staple food for much of the population. [14] The Egyptians invented various implements and methods for fishing and these are clearly illustrated in tomb scenes, drawings, and papyrus documents. Simple reed boats served for fishing. Woven nets, weir baskets made from willow branches, harpoons and hook and line (the hooks having a length of between eight millimetres and eighteen centimetres) were all being used. By the 12th dynasty, metal hooks with barbs were being used. As is fairly common today, the fish were clubbed to death after capture. Nile perch, catfish and eels were among the most important fish. Some representations hint at fishing being pursued as a pastime.

There are numerous references to fishing in ancient literature in most cases, however, the descriptions of nets and fishing-gear do not go into detail, and the equipment is described in general terms. An early example from the Bible in Job 41:7: Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?

Unlike in Minoan culture, [15] fishing scenes are rarely represented in ancient Greek culture, a reflection of the low social status of fishing. [ citation needed ] There is a wine cup, dating from c. 500 BC, that shows a boy crouched on a rock with a fishing-rod in his right hand and a basket in his left. In the water below there is a rounded object of the same material with an opening on the top. This has been identified as a fish-cage used for keeping live fish, or as a fish-trap. It is clearly not a net. This object is currently in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [16]

Oppian of Corycus, a Greek author wrote a major treatise on sea fishing, the Halieulica or Halieutika, composed between 177 and 180. This is the earliest such work to have survived intact to the modern day. Oppian describes various means of fishing including the use of nets cast from boats, scoop nets held open by a hoop, spears and tridents, and various traps "which work while their masters sleep". Oppian's description of fishing with a "motionless" net is also very interesting:

The fishers set up very light nets of buoyant flax and wheel in a circle round about while they violently strike the surface of the sea with their oars and make a din with sweeping blow of poles. At the flashing of the swift oars and the noise the fish bound in terror and rush into the bosom of the net which stands at rest, thinking it to be a shelter: foolish fishes which, frightened by a noise, enter the gates of doom. Then the fishers on either side hasten with the ropes to draw the net ashore.

The Greek historian Polybius (ca 203 BC–120 BC), in his Histories, describes hunting for swordfish by using a harpoon with a barbed and detachable head. [17]

Pictorial evidence of Roman fishing comes from mosaics which show fishing from boats with rod and line as well as nets. Various species such as conger, lobster, sea urchin, octopus and cuttlefish are illustrated. [18] In a parody of fishing, a type of gladiator called retiarius was armed with a trident and a casting-net. He would fight against the murmillo, who carried a short sword and a helmet with the image of a fish on the front.

The Greco-Roman sea god Neptune is depicted as wielding a fishing trident.

In India, the Pandyas, a classical Dravidian Tamil kingdom, were known for the pearl fishery as early as the 1st century BC. Their seaport Tuticorin was known for deep sea pearl fishing. The paravas, a Tamil caste centred in Tuticorin, developed a rich community because of their pearl trade, navigation knowledge and fisheries.

In Norse mythology the sea giantess Rán uses a fishing net to trap lost sailors.

The Moche people of ancient Peru depicted fisherman in their ceramics. [19]

From ancient representations and literature it is clear that fishing boats were typically small, lacking a mast or sail, and were only used close to the shore.

In traditional Chinese history, history begins with three semi-mystical and legendary individuals who taught the Chinese the arts of civilization around 2800–2600 BC: of these Fuxi was reputed to be the inventor of writing, hunting, trapping, and fishing.

Poseidon/Neptune sculpture in Copenhagen Port.

Fresco of a fisherman from the Bronze Age excavation of the Minoan town Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini.

Relief of fishermen collecting their catch from Mereruka's tomb, 6th dynasty

Moche fisherman. 300 A.D. Larco Museum Collection Lima, Peru.

Gillnet Edit

Gillnets existed in ancient times as archaeological evidence from the Middle East demonstrates. [20] In North America, aboriginal fishermen used cedar canoes and natural fibre nets, e.g., made with nettels or the inner bark of cedar. [21] They would attach stones to the bottom of the nets as weights, and pieces of wood to the top, to use as floats. This allowed the net to suspend straight up and down in the water. Each net would be suspended either from shore or between two boats. Native fishers in the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and Alaska still commonly use gillnets in their fisheries for salmon and steelhead.

Both drift gillnets and setnets also have been widely adapted in cultures around the world. The antiquity of gillnet technology is documented by a number of sources from many countries and cultures. Japanese records trace fisheries exploitation, including gillnetting, for over 3,000 years. Many relevant details are available concerning the Edo period (1603–1867). [22] Fisheries in the Shetland Islands, which were settled by Norsemen during the Viking era, share cultural and technological similarities with Norwegian fisheries, including gillnet fisheries for herring. [23] Many of the Norwegian immigrant fishermen who came to fish in the great Columbia River salmon fishery during the second half of the 19th century did so because they had experience in the gillnet fishery for cod in the waters surrounding the Lofoten Islands of northern Norway. [24] Gillnets were used as part of the seasonal round by Swedish fishermen as well. [25] Welsh and English fishermen gillnetted for Atlantic salmon in the rivers of Wales and England in coracles, using hand-made nets, for at least several centuries. [26] These are but a few of the examples of historic gillnet fisheries around the world. Nowadays Gillnets are not used in modern fisheries due to the new regulations and laws put on the commercial fishing industry. The Gillnets would not only kill targeted fish but also harm other unintended inhabitants of the surrounding area, also known as bycatch.

Cod trade Edit

One of the world's longest lasting trade histories is the trade of dry cod from the Lofoten area to the southern parts of Europe, Italy, Spain and Portugal. The trade in cod started during the Viking period or before, has been going on for more than 1000 years and is still important.

Cod has been an important economic commodity in an international market since the Viking period (around 800 AD). Norwegians used dried cod during their travels and soon a dried cod market developed in southern Europe. This market has lasted for more than 1000 years, passing through periods of Black Death, wars and other crises and still is an important Norwegian fish trade. [27] The Portuguese have been fishing cod in the North Atlantic since the 15th century, and clipfish is widely eaten and appreciated in Portugal. The Basques also played an important role in the cod trade and are believed to have found the Canadian fishing banks in the 16th century. The North American east coast developed in part due to the vast amount of cod, and many cities in the New England area spawned near cod fishing grounds.

Apart from the long history this particular trade also differs from most other trade of fish by the location of the fishing grounds, far from large populations and without any domestic market. The large cod fisheries along the coast of North Norway (and in particular close to the Lofoten islands) have been developed almost uniquely for export, depending on sea transport of stockfish over large distances. [28] Since the introduction of salt, dried salt cod ('klippfisk' in Norwegian) has also been exported. The trade operations and the sea transport were by the end of the 14th century taken over by the Hanseatic League, Bergen being the most important port of trade. [29]

William Pitt the Elder, criticizing the Treaty of Paris in Parliament, claimed that cod was "British gold" and that it was folly to restore Newfoundland fishing rights to the French. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the New World, especially in Massachusetts and Newfoundland, cod became a major commodity, forming trade networks and cross-cultural exchanges.

Early modern designs Edit

In the 15th century, the Nut developed a type of seagoing herring drifter that became a blueprint for European fishing boats. This was the Herring Buss, used by Dutch herring fishermen until the early 19th centuries. The ship type buss has a long history. It was known around 1000 AD in Scandinavia as a bǘza, a robust variant of the Viking longship. The first herring buss was probably built in Hoorn around 1415. The last one was built in Vlaardingen in 1841.

The ship was about 20 metres long and displaced between 60 and 100 tons. It was a massive round-bilged keel ship with a bluff bow and stern, the latter relatively high, and with a gallery. The busses used long drifting gill nets to catch the herring. The nets would be retrieved at night and the crews of eighteen to thirty men [30] would set to gibbing, salting and barrelling the catch on the broad deck. The ships sailed in fleets of 400 to 500 ships [30] to the Dogger Bank fishing grounds and the Shetland isles. They were usually escorted by naval vessels, because the English considered they were "poaching". The fleet would stay at sea for weeks at a time. The catch would sometimes be transferred to special ships (called ventjagers), and taken home while the fleet would still be at sea (the picture shows a ventjager in the distance). [30]

During the 17th century, the British developed the dogger, an early type of sailing trawler or longliner, which commonly operated in the North Sea. The dogger takes its name from the Dutch word dogger, meaning a fishing vessel which tows a trawl. Dutch trawling boats were common in the North Sea, and the word dogger was given to the area where they often fished, which became known as the Dogger Bank. [31]

Doggers were slow but sturdy, capable of fishing in the rough conditions of the North Sea. [32] Like the herring buss, they were wide-beamed and bluff-bowed, but considerably smaller, about 15 metres long, a maximum beam of 4.5 metres, a draught of 1.5 metres, and displacing about 13 tonnes. They could carry a tonne of bait, three tonnes of salt, half a tonne each of food and firewood for the crew, and return with six tonnes of fish. [32] Decked areas forward and aft probably provided accommodation, storage and a cooking area. An anchor would have allowed extended periods fishing in the same spot, in waters up to 18 metres deep. The dogger would also have carried a small open boat for maintaining lines and rowing ashore. [32]

A precursor to the dory type was the early French bateau type, a flat bottom boat with straight sides used as early as 1671 on the Saint Lawrence River. [33] The common coastal boat of the time was the wherry and the merging of the wherry design with the simplified flat bottom of the bateau resulted in the birth of the dory. Anecdotal evidence exists of much older precursors throughout Europe. England, France, Italy, and Belgium have small boats from medieval periods that could reasonably be construed as predecessors of the Dory. [34]

Dories appeared in New England fishing towns sometime after the early 18th century. [35] They were small, shallow-draft boats, usually about five to seven metres (15 to 22 feet) long. Lightweight and versatile, with high sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows, they were easy and cheap to build. The Banks dories appeared in the 1830s. They were designed to be carried on mother ships and used for fishing cod at the Grand Banks. [35] Adapted almost directly from the low freeboard, French river bateaus, with their straight sides and removable thwarts, bank dories could be nested inside each other and stored on the decks of fishing schooners, such as the Gazela Primeiro, for their trip to the Grand Banks fishing grounds.

Modern fishing trawler Edit

The British dogger was an early type of sailing trawler from the 17th century, but the modern fishing trawler was developed in the 19th century, at the English fishing port of Brixham.

By the early 19th century, the fishermen at Brixham needed to expand their fishing area further than ever before due to the ongoing depletion of stocks that was occurring in the overfished waters of South Devon. The Brixham trawler that evolved there was of a sleek build and had a tall gaff rig, which gave the vessel sufficient speed to make long distance trips out to the fishing grounds in the ocean. They were also sufficiently robust to be able to tow large trawls in deep water. The great trawling fleet that built up at Brixham, earned the village the title of 'Mother of Deep-Sea Fisheries'.

This revolutionary design made large scale trawling in the ocean possible for the first time, resulting in a massive migration of fishermen from the ports in the South of England, to villages further north, such as Scarborough, Hull, Grimsby, Harwich and Yarmouth, that were points of access to the large fishing grounds in the Atlantic Ocean.

The small village of Grimsby grew to become the 'largest fishing port in the world' [36] by the mid 19th century. An Act of Parliament was first obtained in 1796, which authorised the construction of new quays and dredging of the Haven to make it deeper. [37] It was only in the 1846, with the tremendous expansion in the fishing industry, that the Grimsby Dock Company was formed. The foundation stone for the Royal Dock was laid by Albert the Prince consort in 1849. The dock covered 25 acres (10 ha) and was formally opened by Queen Victoria in 1854 as the first modern fishing port. The facilities incorporated many innovations of the time - the dock gates and cranes were operated by hydraulic power, and the 300-foot (91 m) Grimsby Dock Tower was built to provide a head of water with sufficient pressure by William Armstrong. [38] The docks expanded steadily over the course of the following century: No. 2 Fish Dock opened in 1877, the Union Dock and Alexandra Dock in 1879, and No. 3 Fish Dock was built in 1934. [37] The port was served by a rail link to London's Billingsgate Fish Market, which created a truly national market for Grimsby's fish, allowing it to become renowned nationwide.

The elegant Brixham trawler spread across the world, influencing fishing fleets everywhere. Their distinctive sails inspired the song Red Sails in the Sunset, written aboard a Brixham sailing trawler called the Torbay Lass. [39] [40] By the end of the 19th century, there were over 3,000 fishing trawlers in commission in Britain, with almost 1,000 at Grimsby. These trawlers were sold to fishermen around Europe, including from Holland and Scandinavia. Twelve trawlers went on to form the nucleus of the German fishing fleet. [41]

Although fishing vessel designed increasingly began to converge around the world, local conditions still often led the development of different types of fishing boats. The Lancashire nobby was used down the north west coast of England as a shrimp trawler from 1840 until World War II. The Manx nobby was used around the Isle of Man as a herring drifter. The fifie was also used as a herring drifter along the east coast of Scotland from the 1850s until well into the 20th century.

The bawley and the smack were used in the Thames Estuary and off East Anglia, while trawlers and drifters were used on the east coast. Herring fishing started in the Moray Firth in 1819. The peak of the fishing at Aberdeen was in 1937 with 277 steam trawlers, though the first diesel drifter was introduced in 1926. In 1870 paddle tugs were being used to tow luggers and smacks to sea.

Advent of steam power Edit

The earliest steam powered fishing boats first appeared in the 1870s and used the trawl system of fishing as well as lines and drift nets. These were large boats, usually 80–90 feet (24–27 m) in length with a beam of around 20 feet (6.1 m). They weighed 40-50 tons and travelled at 9–11 knots (17–20 km/h 10–13 mph).

The earliest purpose built fishing vessels were designed and made by David Allan in Leith in March 1875, when he converted a drifter to steam power. In 1877, he built the first screw propelled steam trawler in the world. This vessel was Pioneer LH854. She was of wooden construction with two masts and carried a gaff rigged main and mizen using booms, and a single foresail. Pioneer is mentioned in The Shetland Times of 4 May 1877. In 1878 he completed Forward and Onward, steam-powered trawlers for sale. Allan argued that his motivation for steam power was to increase the safety of fishermen. However local fishermen saw power trawling as a threat. Allan built a total of ten boats at Leith between 1877 and 1881. Twenty-one boats were completed at Granton, his last vessel being Degrave in 1886. Most of these were sold to foreign owners in France, Belgium, Spain and the West Indies. [42]

The first steam boats were made of wood, but steel hulls were soon introduced and were divided into watertight compartments. They were well designed for the crew with a large building that contained the wheelhouse and the deckhouse. The boats built in the 20th century only had a mizzen sail, which was used to help steady the boat when its nets were out. The main function of the mast was now as a crane for lifting the catch ashore. It also had a steam capstan on the foredeck near the mast for hauling nets. The boats had narrow, high funnels so that the steam and thick coal smoke was released high above the deck and away from the fishermen. These funnels were nicknamed woodbines because they looked like the popular brand of cigarette. These boats had a crew of twelve made up of a skipper, driver, fireman (to look after the boiler) and nine deck hands. [42]

Steam fishing boats had many advantages. They were usually about 20 ft longer (6.1 m) than the sailing vessels so they could carry more nets and catch more fish. This was important, as the market was growing quickly at the beginning of the 20th century. They could travel faster and further and with greater freedom from weather, wind and tide. Because less time was spent travelling to and from the fishing grounds, more time could be spent fishing. The steam boats also gained the highest prices for their fish, as they could return quickly to harbour with their fresh catch. The main disadvantage of the steam boats, though, was their high operating costs. Their engines were mechanically inefficient and took up much space, while fuel and fitting out costs were very high. Before the First World War, building costs were between £3,000 and £4,000, at least three times the cost of the sail boats. To cover these high costs, they needed to fish for longer seasons. The higher expenses meant that more steam drifters were company-owned or jointly owned. As the herring fishing industry declined, steam boats became too expensive. [42]

Steam trawlers were introduced at Grimsby and Hull in the 1880s. In 1890 it was estimated that there were 20,000 men on the North Sea. The steam drifter was not used in the herring fishery until 1897. The last sailing fishing trawler was built in 1925 in Grimsby.

Further development Edit

Trawler designs adapted as the way they were powered changed from sail to coal-fired steam by World War I to diesel and turbines by the end of World War II.

During both World Wars, many fishing trawlers were commissioned as naval trawlers. Fishing trawlers were particularly suited for many naval requirements because they were robust boats designed to work heavy trawls in all types of weather and had large clear working decks. One could create a mine sweeper simply by replacing the trawl with a mine sweep. Adding depth charge racks on the deck, ASDIC below, and a 3-inch (76 mm) or 4-inch (102 mm) gun in the bows equipped the trawler for anti-submarine duties.

The Royal Navy ordered many naval trawlers to Admiralty specifications. Shipyards such as Smiths Dock Company that were used to building fishing trawlers could easily switch to constructing naval versions. As a bonus, the Admiralty could sell these trawlers to commercial fishing interests when the wars ended. Still, many were sunk during the war, such as HMT Amethyst and HMT Force.

Armed trawlers were also used to defend fishing groups from enemy aircraft or submarines. The smallest civilian trawlers were converted to danlayers.

In 1931, the first powered drum was created by Laurie Jarelainen. The drum was a circular device that was set to the side of the boat and would draw in the nets. The powered drum allowed the nets to be drawn in much faster, so fishermen were able to fish in areas they had previously been unable to go into, thereby revolutionizing the fishing industry.

During World War II, navigation and communication devices, as well as many other forms of maritime equipment (depth-sounding and radar) were improved and made more compact. These devices became much more accessible to the average fisherman, thus making their range and mobility larger. It also served to make the industry much more competitive, as the fisherman were forced to invest more into their boats, equipped with electronic aids, such as radio navigation aids and fish finders. During the Cold War, some countries fitted fishing trawlers with additional electronic gear so they could be used as spy ships to monitor the activities of other countries.

The first trawlers fished over the side, rather than over the stern. In 1947, the company Christian Salvesen, based in Leith, Scotland, refitted a surplus Algerine-class minesweeper (HMS Felicity) with refrigeration equipment and a factory ship stern ramp, to produce the first combined freezer/stern trawler in 1947. [43]

The first purpose built stern trawler was Fairtry built in 1953 at Aberdeen. The ship was much larger than any other trawlers then in operation and inaugurated the era of the 'super trawler'. As the ship pulled its nets over the stern, it could lift out a much greater haul of up to 60 tons. Lord Nelson followed in 1961, installed with vertical plate freezers that had been researched and built at the Torry Research Station. These ships served as a basis for the expansion of 'super trawlers' around the world in the following decades. [43]

The introduction of fine synthetic fibres such as nylon in the construction of fishing gear during the 1960s marked an expansion in the commercial use of gillnets. The new materials were cheaper and easier to handle, lasted longer and required less maintenance than natural fibres. In addition, fibres such as nylon monofilaments become almost invisible in water, so nets made with synthetic twines generally caught greater numbers of fish than natural fibre nets used in comparable situations. Due to environmental concerns, gillnets were banned by the United Nations in 1993 in international waters, although their use is still permitted within 200 nautical miles (400 km) of a coast.

The early evolution of fishing as recreation is not clear. For example, there is anecdotal evidence for fly fishing in Japan as early as the ninth century BC, [44] and in Europe Claudius Aelianus (175–235 AD) describes fly fishing in his work On the Nature of Animals. [45]

But for the early Japanese and Macedonians, fly fishing was likely to have been a means of survival, rather than recreation. It is possible that antecedents of recreational fly fishing arrived in England with the Norman conquest of 1066. [45] Although the point in history where fishing could first be said to be recreational is not clear, [46] it is clear that recreational fishing had fully arrived with the publication of The Compleat Angler.

Origins Edit

The earliest English essay on recreational fishing was published in 1496, shortly after the invention of the printing press. The authorship of this was attributed to Dame Juliana Berners, the prioress of the Benedictine Sopwell Nunnery. The essay was titled Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, [47] and was published in the second Boke of Saint Albans, a treatise on hawking, hunting, and heraldry. These were major interests of the nobility, and the publisher, Wynkyn de Worde, was concerned that the book should be kept from those who were not gentlemen, since their immoderation in angling might "utterly destroy it". [48]

During the 16th century the work was much read, and was reprinted many times. Treatyse includes detailed information on fishing waters, the construction of rods and lines, and the use of natural baits and artificial flies. It also includes modern concerns about conservation and angler etiquette. [49]

The earliest English poetical treatise on Angling by John Dennys, said to have been a fishing companion of Shakespeare, was published in 1613, The Secrets of Angling. Footnotes of the work, written by Dennys' editor, William Lawson, make the first mention of the phrase to 'cast a fly': "The trout gives the most gentlemanly and readiest sport of all, if you fish with an artificial fly, a line twice your rod's length of three hairs' thickness. and if you have learnt the cast of the fly." [50]

The art of fly fishing took a great leap forward after the English Civil War, where a newly found interest in the activity left its mark on the many books and treatises that were written on the subject at the time. The renowned officer in the Parliamentary army, Robert Venables, published in 1662 The Experienced Angler, or Angling improved, being a general discourse of angling, imparting many of the aptest ways and choicest experiments for the taking of most sorts of fish in pond or river. Another Civil War veteran to enthusiastically take up fishing, was Richard Franck. He was the first to describe salmon fishing in Scotland, and both in that and trout-fishing with artificial fly he was a practical angler. He was the first angler to name the burbot, and commended the salmon of the River Thames. [51]

Compleat Angler was written by Izaak Walton in 1653 (although Walton continued to add to it for a quarter of a century) and described the fishing in the Derbyshire Wye. It was a celebration of the art and spirit of fishing in prose and verse 6 verses were quoted from John Dennys's earlier work. A second part to the book was added by Walton's friend Charles Cotton. [51]

Walton did not profess to be an expert with a fishing fly the fly fishing in his first edition was contributed by Thomas Barker, a retired cook and humorist, who produced a treatise of his own in 1659 but in the use of the live worm, the grasshopper and the frog "Piscator" himself could speak as a master. The famous passage about the frog, often misquoted as being about the worm—"use him as though you loved him, that is, harm him as little as you may possibly, that he may live the longer"—appears in the original edition. Cotton's additions completed the instruction in fly fishing and advised on the making of artificial flies where he listed sixty five varieties.

Charles Kirby designed an improved fishing hook in 1655 that remains relatively unchanged to this day. He went on to invent the Kirby bend, a distinctive hook with an offset point, still commonly used today. [52]

Development Edit

The 18th century was mainly an era of consolidation of the techniques developed in the previous century. Running rings began to appear along the fishing rods, which gave anglers greater control over the cast line. The rods themselves were also becoming increasingly sophisticated and specialized for different roles. Jointed rods became common from the middle of the century and bamboo came to be used for the top section of the rod, giving it a much greater strength and flexibility.

The industry also became commercialized - rods and tackle were sold at the haberdashers store. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, artisans moved to Redditch which became a centre of production of fishing related products from the 1730s. Onesimus Ustonson established his trading shop in 1761, and his establishment remained as a market leader for the next century. He received a Royal Warrant from three successive monarchs starting with King George IV. [53]

Some have credited Onesimus with the invention of the multiplying winch, although he was certainly the first to advertise its sale. Early multiplying reels were wide and had a small diameter, and their gears, made of brass, often wore down after extensive use. His earliest advertisement in the form of a trading card date from 1768 and was entitled To all lovers of angling. A full list of the tackles he sold included artificial flies, and 'the best sort of multiplying brass winches both stop and plain'. The commercialization of the industry came at a time of expanded interest in fishing as a recreational hobby for members of the aristocracy. [54]

The impact of the Industrial Revolution was first felt in the manufacture of fly lines. Instead of anglers twisting their own lines - a laborious and time-consuming process - the new textile spinning machines allowed for a variety of tapered lines to be easily manufactured and marketed.

British fly-fishing continued to develop in the 19th Century, with the emergence of fly fishing clubs, along with the appearance of several books on the subject of fly tying and fly fishing techniques.

Alfred Ronalds took up the sport of fly fishing, learning the craft on the rivers Trent, Blythe and Dove. On the River Blythe, near what is today Creswell Green, Ronalds constructed a bankside fishing hut designed primarily as an observatory of trout behaviour in the river. From this hut, and elsewhere on his home rivers, Ronalds conducted experiments and formulated the ideas that eventually were published in The Fly-fisher's Entomology in 1836. [55]

He combined his knowledge of fly fishing with his skill as an engraver and printer, to lavish his work with 20 colour plates. It was the first comprehensive work related to the entomology associated with fly fishing and most fly-fishing historians credit Ronalds with setting a literature standard in 1836 that is still followed today. [56] Describing methods, techniques and, most importantly, artificial flies, in a meaningful way for the angler and illustrating them in colour is a method of presentation that can be seen in most fly-fishing literature today.

The book was mostly about the aquatic insects—mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies—that trout and grayling feed on and their counterpart artificial imitations. About half the book is devoted to observations of trout, their behaviour, and the methods and techniques used to catch them. Most of this information, although enhanced by Ronalds' experiences and observations, was merely an enhancement of Charles Bowlker's Art of Angling (first published in 1774 but still in print in 1836). [57]

In Chapter IV - Of a Selection of Insects, and Their Imitations, Used in Fly Fishing - for the first time is discussed specific artificial fly imitations by name, associated with the corresponding natural insect. Organized by their month of appearance, Ronalds was the first author to begin the standardization of angler names for artificial flies. Prior to The Fly-fisher's Entomology, anglers had been given suggestions for artificial flies to be used on a particular river or at a particular time of the year, but those suggestions were never matched to specific natural insects the angler might encounter on the water. [58] According to Ernest Schwiebert: "Ronalds is one of the major milestones in the entire literature of fly-fishing, and with his Entomology the scientific method has reached angling in full flower. Ronalds was completely original in its content and research, setting the yardstick for all subsequent discussion and illustration of aquatic fly hatches. [59]

Technological improvements Edit

Modern reel design had begun in England during the later part of the 18th century, and the predominant model in use was known as the 'Nottingham reel'. The reel was a wide drum which spooled out freely, and was ideal for allowing the bait to drift along way out with the current. Geared multiplying reels never successfully caught on in Britain, but had more success in the United States, where similar models were modified by George Snyder of Kentucky into his bait-casting reel, the first American-made design in 1810. [60]

The material used for the rod itself changed from the heavy woods native to England, to lighter and more elastic varieties imported from abroad, especially from South America and the West Indies. Bamboo rods became the generally favoured option from the mid 19th century, and several strips of the material were cut from the cane, milled into shape, and then glued together to form light, strong, hexagonal rods with a solid core that were superior to anything that preceded them. George Cotton and his predecessors fished their flies with long rods, and light lines allowing the wind to do most of the work of getting the fly to the fish. [61]

Tackle design began to improve from the 1880s. The introduction of new woods to the manufacture of fly rods made it possible to cast flies into the wind on silk lines, instead of horse hair. These lines allowed for a much greater casting distance. However, these early fly lines proved troublesome as they had to be coated with various dressings to make them float and needed to be taken off the reel and dried every four hours or so to prevent them from becoming waterlogged. Another negative consequence was that it became easy for the much longer line to get into a tangle - this was called a 'tangle' in Britain, and a 'backlash' in the US. This problem spurred the invention of the regulator to evenly spool the line out and prevent tangling. [61]

The American, Charles F. Orvis, designed and distributed a novel reel and fly design in 1874, described by reel historian Jim Brown as the "benchmark of American reel design," and the first fully modern fly reel. [62] [63] The founding of The Orvis Company helped institutionalize fly fishing by supplying angling equipment via the circulation of his tackle catalogs, distributed to a small but devoted customer list. [ citation needed ]

Albert Illingworth, 1st Baron Illingworth a textiles magnate, patented the modern form of fixed-spool spinning reel in 1905. When casting Illingworth's reel design, the line was drawn off the leading edge of the spool, but was restrained and rewound by a line pickup, a device which orbits around the stationary spool. Because the line did not have to pull against a rotating spool, much lighter lures could be cast than with conventional reels. [61]

Expansion Edit

By the mid to late 19th century, expanding leisure opportunities for the middle and lower classes began to have its effect on fly fishing, which steadily grew in mass appeal. The expansion of the railway network in Britain allowed the less affluent for the first time to take weekend trips to the seaside or to rivers for fishing. Richer hobbyists ventured further abroad. [64] The large rivers of Norway replete with large stocks of salmon began to attract fishers from England in large numbers in the middle of the century - Jones's guide to Norway, and salmon-fisher's pocket companion, published in 1848, was written by Frederic Tolfrey and was a popular guide to the country. [64]

In southern England, dry-fly fishing acquired an elitist reputation as the only acceptable method of fishing the slower, clearer rivers of the south such as the River Test and the other chalk streams concentrated in Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset and Berkshire (see Southern England Chalk Formation for the geological specifics). The weeds found in these rivers tend to grow very close to the surface, and it was felt necessary to develop new techniques that would keep the fly and the line on the surface of the stream. These became the foundation of all later dry-fly developments.

However, there was nothing to prevent the successful employment of wet flies on these chalk streams, as G. E. M. Skues proved with his nymph and wet fly techniques. To the horror of dry-fly purists, Skues later wrote two books, Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream, and The Way of a Trout with a Fly, which greatly influenced the development of wet fly fishing. In northern England and Scotland, many anglers also favored wet-fly fishing, where the technique was more popular and widely practiced than in southern England. One of Scotland's leading proponents of the wet fly in the early-to-mid 19th century was W. C. Stewart, who published "The Practical Angler" in 1857.

In the United States, attitudes toward methods of fly fishing were not nearly as rigidly defined, and both dry- and wet-fly fishing were soon adapted to the conditions of the country. Fly anglers there, are thought to be the first anglers to have used artificial lures for bass fishing. After pressing into service the fly patterns and tackle designed for trout and salmon to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, they began to adapt these patterns into specific bass flies. Fly anglers seeking bass developed the spinner/fly lure and bass popper fly, which are still used today. [65]

In the late 19th century, American anglers, such as Theodore Gordon, in the Catskill Mountains of New York began using fly tackle to fish the region's brook trout-rich streams such as the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek. Many of these early American fly anglers also developed new fly patterns and wrote extensively about their sport, increasing the popularity of fly fishing in the region and in the United States as a whole. [65] Albert Bigelow Paine, a New England author, wrote about fly fishing in The Tent Dwellers, a book about a three-week trip he and a friend took to central Nova Scotia in 1908.

Participation in fly fishing peaked in the early 1920s in the eastern states of Maine and Vermont and in the Midwest in the spring creeks of Wisconsin. Along with deep sea fishing, Ernest Hemingway did much to popularize fly fishing through his works of fiction, including The Sun Also Rises.

Fly fishing in Australia took off when brown trout were first introduced by the efforts of Edward Wilson's Acclimatisation Society of Victoria with the aim to "provide for manly sport which will lead Australian youth to seek recreation on the river's bank and mountainside rather than in the Cafe and Casino. [66] " The first successful transfer of Brown Trout ova (from the Itchen and Wye) was accomplished by James Arndell Youl, with a consignment aboard The Norfolk in 1864. Rainbow Trout were not introduced until 1894.

It was the development of inexpensive fiberglass rods, synthetic fly lines, and monofilament leaders, however, in the early 1950s, that revived the popularity of fly fishing. In recent years, interest in fly fishing has surged as baby boomers have discovered the sport. Movies such as Robert Redford's film A River Runs Through It, starring Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt, cable fishing shows, and the emergence of a competitive fly casting circuit have added to the sport's visibility.

Mesolithic – Middle Stone Age

The first phase of the Holocene epoch coincides with the culture of the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age. Mesolithic is a transitional phase from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period, i.e., from a man-hunter towards man who begins to deal with a primitive agriculture and livestock breeding.

It dates from about 10.150 BP (before present) to 6.500 BP. Mesolithic age for the most part continued tendency of the Upper Palaeolithic in terms of creating and developing new local cultures, while the free movement of people and migration in groups were rather reduced. The reason for this is the growth of forests in many areas that discourage people from moving from one place to another.

However, migration of humans during the Mesolithic era was, besides everything, high, especially in the habitable areas of northern Europe and Asia who had previously been covered by glacial cover. The climate, flora and fauna gradually acquired today’s character.

As glaciers withdraw, many large animals disappeared. Among the first to disappear was mammoth and hairy rhinoceros, while other animals, such as, elk and red fox went to the north following ice cover. After melting glaciers and with warmer climate came vast areas of forests (pine, fir, birch, oak, chestnut, etc.) and with that animal world also changed. In the forests, mesolithic people could usually encounter with chamois, noble deer – Caspian red deer, bears, reindeer, wild boars and other animals.

Those were small but fast animals, which did not lived in the packs. That is why hunting of such animals was no longer possible. Besides that, earlier methods and weapons were completely outdated and useless. New hunting conditions have resulted in significant development of throwing weapons as well as the progress in technique used for making weapons whose ultimate product was a bow and arrow.

In the Mesolithic Age significantly expanded a use of microlithons (gr. mikros – small, lithos – stone) i.e. a product made of stone whose length ranged from 1 to 2 cm, in the form of a prism, knife or a sharp spike, which were used as inserts in the wooden or bone handrails. These products are used for making tools that necessary for breaking, cutting, chopping or scraping, as well as an obligatory bow and arrow. Microlithons represented working part of the tools and weapons.

Technique of making microlithons was very advanced. New tools and weapons were lighter, better and much more convenient to use. Besides that, microlithon were easily replaced when it breaks.

Construction of the bow and arrow meant a huge man victory in his struggle with nature, or his struggle for life. That is how, in the hands of Mesolithic people, was fast and long-range weapon. This weapon was made with great precision of shooting targets and with lethal force. It became more important than spears.

Different types of microliths, mesolithic weapons.

One of the most important inventions, of Mesolithic era people is related to the throwing bat so-called boomerang, which was made of bent or flat piece of wood like reaping hook that could fly up to 150 meters. When boomerang struck target, with its well-sharpened point, it inflicted serious damage or injury. Many tribes were familiar with these weapons and they used it. New techniques in the development of tools and weapons enabled Mesolithic people that, depending on natural conditions, deal with new economic activities.

By changing fauna, hunting was suppressed and replaced by a new one, which was based on the finding of individual small animals. Such hunting was far more successful. Specifically, by using bow and arrow, man – hunter was able to catch fast animals, which did not live in packs. Some of those animals were beasts which were usually inaccessible to people. Favourable conditions for hunting allowed people to come to the big catch. Since they were no longer able to eat all animals, which they came across, they decided to let those wounded animals or their offspring alive. That is exactly, what led man to tame and domesticate some animals. They decided to hold and nurture those animals. The first domesticated animal was a dog, which later became man’s faithful companion. It was very easy to feed dog, because he ate everything that man eats. At the beginning, Mesolithic people used dog in their nutrition, and later on dogs were used for catching other animals, as well as for towing and keeping safe settlements in which people lived. That is how first major step forward was done, when it comes to domestication of animals. This step was also of great importance for the next stage in the development of human society.

Fishing and collecting economy continued to develop largely when it is compared to the previous period. On the shores many settlements were built, as evidences of that people found piles of fish bones and shells.

The Great Famine (1315-1317) and the Black Death (1346-1351)

The 14th century was an era of catastrophes. Some of them man-made, such as the Hundred Years' War, the Avignon Papacy, and the Great Schism. These were caused by human beings, and we shall consider them a bit later. There were two more or less natural disasters either of which one would think would have been sufficient to throw medieval Europe into a real "Dark Ages": the Great Famine and the Black Death. Each caused millions of deaths, and each in its way demonstrated in dramatic fashion the existence of new vulnerabilities in Western European society. Together they subjected the population of medieval Europe to tremendous strains, leading many people to challenge old institutions and doubt traditional values, and, by so doing, these calamities altered the path of European development in many areas.

The Great Famine of 1315

By the beginning of the 14th century, however, the population had grown to such an extent that the land could provide enough resources to support it only under the best of conditions. There was no longer any margin for crop failures or even harvest shortfalls. At the same time, however, the Western European climate was undergoing a slight change, with cooler and wetter summers and earlier autumn storms. Conditions were no longer optimum for agriculture.

We have noted that there had been famines before, but none with such a large population to feed, and none that persisted for so long. A wet Spring in the year 1315 made it impossible to plow all of the fields that were ready for cultivation, and heavy rains rotted some of the seed grain before it could germinate. The harvest was far smaller than usual, and the food reserves of many families were quickly depleted. People gathered what food they could from the forests: edible roots, plants, grasses, nuts, and bark. Although many people were badly weakened by malnutrition, the historical evidence suggests that relatively few died. The Spring and Summer of 1316 were cold and wet again, however. Peasant families now had less energy with which to till the land needed for a harvest to make up for the previous shortfall and possessed a much smaller food supply in reserve to sustain them until the next harvest.

By the spring of 1317, all classes of society were suffering, although, as might be expected, the lower classes suffered the most. Draft animals were slaughtered, seed grain was eaten, infants and the younger children were abandoned. Many of the elderly voluntarily starved themselves to death so that the younger members of the family might live to work the fields again. There were numerous reports of cannibalism, although one can never tell if such talk was not simply a matter of rumor-mongering.

You might remember the story of Hansel and Gretel. Abandoned in the woods by their parents during a time of hunger, they were taken in by an old woman living in a cottage made of gingerbread and candy. They saw that the old woman was bringing in wood and heating the oven, and they discovered that she was planning on roasting and eating them. Gretel asked the woman to look inside the oven to see if it was hot enough, and then pushed her in and slammed the door. Like most of Grimm's Fairy Tales, this is a rather late tale, but it is illustrative of the grim possibilities with which the old tales for children are fraught.

The weather had returned to its normal pattern by the summer of 1317, but the pople of Europe were incapable of making a quick recovery. An important factor in this situation was the scarcity of grain available to be used as seed. Although historians are still unsure of the validity of the figures, records of the time seem to indicate that a bushel of seed was needed in order to produce four bushels of wheat. At the height of the hunger in the late Spring of 1317, starving people had eaten much of the grain normally set aside as seed, as wall as many of their draft animals.

Even so, any of the surviving people and animals were simply too weak to work effectively. But about ten to fifteen percent of the population had died from pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and other sicknesses that the starving sufferers' weakness had made fatal, and there were consequently fewer mouths to feed. So Europe was able to recover, although only slowly.

It was not until about 1325 that the food supply had returned to a relatively normal state, and population began to increase again. Europeans were badly shaken however. The death rate had been high, and even nobles and clergy had perished from hunger. The world now seemed a less stable and "gentle" place than it had before the Great Famine. Another folk tale that arose about this time suggests a new and more violent attitude among the populace, the story of The Mouse Tower of Bingen

There is an old stone tower in the German city of Bingen, and it is still pointed out to visitors as the famous Mouse Tower of the Bishop of Bingen.

The Black Death of 1347-1351

During the next few years, the European economy slowly improved, and agricultural and manufacturing production eventually reached pre-famine levels. This return to normalcy was suddenly ended in the year 1347 by a disaster even worse than the Great Famine.

Since the failure of Justinian's attempt to reconquer the lands of the Western Empire in 540-565, Europe had been relatively isolated, its population sparse, and intercommunication among its villages slight. It was as if the continent were divided up into a number of quarantine districts. Although many diseases were endemic (that is, they were always present), contagious diseases did not spread rapidly or easily. So the last pandemic (an epidemic that strikes literally everywhere within a short time) to strike Europe had been the one brought to the West by Justinian's armies in 547. By the 14th century, however, the revival of commerce and trade and the growth of population had altered that situation. There was much more movement of people from place to place within Europe, and European merchants travelled far afield into many more regions from which they could bring home both profitable wares and contagious diseases. Moreover, the diet, housing, and clothing of the average men and women of Western Europe were relatively poor, and a shortage of wood for fuel had made hot water a luxury and personal hygiene substandard.

Contrary to popular belief, medieval people actually liked to wash. They particularly enjoyed soaking in hot tubs and, as late as the mid- thirteenth century, most towns and even villages had public bath houses not unlike the Japanese do today. The conversion of forest into arable land had reduced the supply of wood, however, and the bath houses began to shut down because of the expense of heating the water. They tried using coal, but decided that burning coal gave off unhealthy fumes (They were right, by the way) and abandoned the use of the stuff. By the mid-fourteenth century, only the rich could afford to bathe during the cold Winter months, and most of the population was dirty most of the time, even if they did not enjoy being so

The Black Death seems to have arisen somewhere in Asia and was brought to Europe from the Genoese trading station of Kaffa in the Crimea (in the Black Sea). The story goes that the Mongols were besieging Kaffa when a sickness broke out among their forces and compelled them to abandon the siege. As a parting shot, the Mongol commander loaded a few of the plague victims onto his catapults and hurled them into the town. Some of the merchants left Kaffa for Constantinople as soon as the Mongols had departed, and they carried the plague with them. It spread from Constantinople along the trade routes, causing tremendous mortality along the way.

The disease was transmitted primarily by fleas and rats. The stomachs of the fleas were infected with bacteria known as Y. Pestis . The bacteria would block the "throat" of an infected flea so that no blood could reach its stomach, and it grew ravenous since it was starving to death. It would attempt to suck up blood from its victim, only to disgorge it back into its prey's bloodstreams. The blood it injected back, however, was now mixed with Y. Pestis. Infected fleas infected rats in this fashion, and the other fleas infesting those rats were soon infected by their host's blood. They then spread the disease to other rats, from which other fleas were infected, and so on. As their rodent hosts died out, the fleas migrated to the bodies of humans and infected them in the same fashion as they had the rats, and so the plague spread

The disease appeared in three forms:
bubonic [infection of the lymph system -- 60% fatal]
pneumonic [respiratory infection -- about 100% fatal], and
septicaemic [infection of the blood and probably 100% fatal]

The plague lasted in each area only about a year, but a third of a district's population would die during that period. People tried to protect themselves by carrying little bags filled with crushed herbs and flowers over their noses, but to little effect. Those individuals infected with bubonic would experience great swellings ("bubos" in the Latin of the times) of their lymph glands and take to their beds. Those with septicaemic would die quickly, before any obvious symptoms had appeared. Those with respiratory also died quickly, but not before developing evident symptoms: a sudden fever that turned the face a dark rose color, a sudden attack of sneezing, followed by coughing, coughing up blood, and death.

It is a popular (although incorrect) belief that this latter sequence is recalled in a children's game-song that most people know and have both played and sung:

According to this conception, the ring mentioned in the verse is a circular dance, and the plague was often portrayed as the danse macabre, in which a half-decomposed corpse was shown pulling an apparently healthy young man or woman into a ring of dancers that included man and women from all stations and dignities of life as well as corpses and skeletons. The rosie is believed to represent the victim with his or her face suffused with blood, and the posie is the supposedly prophylactic bag of herbs and flowers. Ashes, ashes is the sound of sneezing, and all fall down! is the signal to reenact the death which came so often in those times.

Some Consequences of the Plague

The disease finally played out in Scandinavia in about 1351 [see Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal], but another wave of the disease came in 1365 and several times after that until -- for some unknown reason -- the Black Death weakened and was replaced by waves of typhoid fever, typhus, or cholera. Europe continued to experience regular waves of such mortality until the mid-19th century. Although bubonic plague is still endemic in many areas, including New Mexico in the American Southwest. it does not spread as did the Black Death of 1347-1351.

The effects of that plague and its successors on the men and women of medieval Europe were profound: new attitudes toward death, the value of life, and of one's self. It kindled a growth of class conflict, a loss of respect for the Church, and the emergence of a new pietism (personal spirituality) that profoundly altered European attitudes toward religion. Still another effect, however, was to kindle a new cultural vigor in Europe, one in which the national languages, rather than Latin, were the vehicle of expression. An example of this movement was Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron , a collection of tales written in 1350 and set in a country house where a group of noble young men and women of Florence have fled to escape the plague raging in the city.

These were natural disasters, but they were made all the worse by the inability of the directing elements of society, the princes and clergy, to offer any leadership during these crises. In the next few lectures we will examine the reasons for their failure to do so.

And Innocent Merriment

It was once the custom to follow every drama with a farce or ballet. I suppose that the theory was that the emotions of the audience were so exhausted by the passions that had been enacted, that they (the audience, not the emotions) needed a bit of good clean fun to restore the balance of their humors (I really should tell you about humors sometime). Following this venerable tradition, The Management now offers you a bit of doggerel.

"A sickly season," the merchant said,
"The town I left was filled with dead,
and everywhere these queer red flies
crawled upon the corpses' eyes,
eating them away."

"Fair make you sick," the merchant said,
"They crawled upon the wine and bread.
Pale priests with oil and books,
bulging eyes and crazy looks,
dropping like the flies."

"I had to laugh," the merchant said,
"The doctors purged, and dosed, and bled
"And proved through solemn disputation
"The cause lay in some constellation.
"Then they began to die."

"First they sneezed," the merchant said,
"And then they turned the brightest red,
Begged for water, then fell back.
With bulging eyes and face turned black,
they waited for the flies."

"I came away," the merchant said,
"You can't do business with the dead.
"So I've come here to ply my trade.
"You'll find this to be a fine brocade. "

And then he sneezed.

Next: The Hundred Years War 1336-1453

Lynn Harry Nelson
Emeritus Professor of
Medieval History
The University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas

The Future Is Now

In light of these issues, Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) have been invented. As their name implies, each hatchery cleans and reuses a set water supply in an indoor farm (think hydroponic fish). This system allows fisheries specific control over the hatchery environment without the need for a fresh water supply. Not only can an RAS be located, well, anywhere, it can produce fish year-round rather than seasonally. Other carnivorous fish like cod or tuna could theoretically be raised in this manner as well.

In addition, larger fish species such as Kamapchi, cousin to the Yellowtail Tuna, could soon be raised on the open ocean, towed about in huge pens by tender vessels so that waste is distributed over a much wider area and causes far less local environmental damage. Kampachi Farm, the ideological successor to Kona Blue Water Farms, which was founded in 2001 by a pair of marine biologists is doing just that.

“The overall goal of these efforts is to reduce mankind’s footprint on the seas, by transitioning toward a more nurturing relationship with our seafood,” said Neil Sims, the co-founder and co-CEO of Kampachi Farms, in a press statement. “The Kona Blue operation made some tremendous advances in marine fish production. We grew over 1 million pounds of Kona Kampachi per year at that site, with no measureable impact on the environment beyond the immediate net pen area.”

Put Another Shrimp On the Barbie! (Or Not)

Commercial shrimp farming, on the other hand, faces a genetic hurdle. More than 75 per cent of the world’s shrimp supply is produced in Asia, specifically Thailand and China. The other 25 per cent is mostly from South America by way of Brazil. Just two species, Pacific white shrimp and the giant tiger prawns, constitute 80 per cent of the shrimp raised commercially. Two humongous mono-cultures of shrimp grown in less than a half dozen countries could easily be devastated by an outbreak of viral, bacterial or fungal disease just as Tropical Race 4 nearly obliterated the Cavendish banana. Oh wait, never mind, they already have been. Repeatedly. And considering that the US imports 80 per cent of the shrimp it consumes every year, some $US3.5 billion dollars worth, a mass die off of Vietnamese shrimp will be tough for the public to swallow (or not).

Hunting in the Middle Ages

During medieval times, hunting was as much a privilege as a necessity. The monarchs generally owned the forests and restricted the hunting within them to allow access to only the monarchs themselves and their servants. Peasants, on the other hand, were limited to the common lands for hunting and, if they should happen to break the laws of hunting, they were penalized severely. Death was not an uncommon punishment for those found hunting in the royal forests without the express permission of the monarch.

There were several different types of hunting that were common during the middle ages. At Force hunting was a group activity - a group of young men was split into teams and they would then track and chase down prey (often wild boar) and compete for the kill. Bow and Stable hunting involved the use of the bow as the weapon of choice and was conducted on horseback. Both of these types of hunting usually included the use of hunting dogs that assisted in the tracking of prey and would often drive the prey into enclosed areas so the huntsman could come in for the kill.

10 Ways People Died in the Middle Ages

On August 24, 1349, the Black Death broke out in the Prussian town of Elbing in Northern Germany. This horrifying illness became synonymous with death in the Middle Ages! Beginning in the fifth century and ending with the death of Richard III in the fifteenth century, the Middle Ages in Europe are sometimes referred to as the Medieval period. People in Medieval Europe had an average life expectancy of somewhere in the 30s-40s, far less than our own today. This article presents 10 ways people died during this time period. Some of the deaths were common others rather unconventional.

Digging Deeper

10. Infection from a Dead Man’s Bite!

A Viking earl by the name of Sigurd Eysteinsson (ruled c. 875-892) engaged his enemy, Mael Brigte the Bucktoothed, in a battle in which each side could only bring 40 men. Sigurd the Mighty cheated and brought twice as many men. After claiming the severed head of Brigte as a war trophy, Sigurd strapped Brigte’s head to his horse. As he left the battle site, one of Mael Brigte’s famous buckteeth scratched Sigurd’s leg, causing an infection that eventually claimed his life. This incident proves that karma is indeed a bitch.

When Pope Urban II urged Christians to rise up against the enemies of God who were claiming “their”Holy Land, he knew that this would lead to a loss of Christian life. More important, however, was that in the process they kill any Muslims who were occupying the territory. There were as many as 9 crusades, or Holy Wars and people from all walks of life participated.

8. Martyrdom

While serving as Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett (c. 1118-1170) did not agree with King Henry II’s ideas about the church and justice. After Becket excommunicated some of the king’s favorite bishops, the King is said to have cried out, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Some of his knights took him at his word, traveled to Canterbury and slew Becket in his own cathedral by inflicting blows to the head. The knights were punished by having to go on Crusade, and Becket became a saint and his place of death a shrine.

Have you ever wondered what a she-wolf would do to you if you crossed her? Isabella of France (c.1295 –1358), sometimes described as the She-wolf of France, was known for her beauty, diplomacy and intellect. She was also the wife of Edward II of England who was notorious for having male favorites. Of these men, Hugh Despenser the Younger rose to prominence as royal chamberlain under Edward (no pun intended). By 1325, Isabella began an affair of her own with Roger Mortimer. In a pact arranged by feminine manipulation no doubt, the two gathered a small army and swept through England, hoping to remove Edward and the Despensers from power. After several years of battle, Isabella and Roger finally had the means to put Hugh Despenser on trial. He was found to be a traitor. Fueled by hatred, humiliation and loss, Isabella had him drawn, disemboweled, castrated and quartered.

6. Burping and Giggling

During a feast in 1410, King Martin of Aragon (c. 1356-1410) died under very unfortunate circumstances. The combination of severe indigestion and uncontrollable laughter caused Martin to collapse at the dinner table. It is speculated that he first gorged himself on either eel or goose, causing heartburn, but it was a joke that did him in. As John Doran reported in his book “The History of Court Fools,” when Martin asked his jester where he had been recently, “the jester replied with: ‘Out of the next vineyard, where I saw a young deer hanging by his tail from a tree, as if someone had so punished him for stealing figs’.” Perhaps the king was a little bit drunk too…

5. Accident or Assassination?

Bela I of Hungary (c. 1020-1063) had taken the throne away from his brother Andrew. Many felt that Andrew’s son Solomon was the rightful king. As Bela was sitting on his throne, the canopy above him gave way, crushing him to death. Evidence of assassination was never found, but he was succeeded by Solomon.

4. Childbirth

In Medieval times, death during childbirth was common. Hygiene was not yet understood. Many women died of Puerperal Fever which was the result of infection in the reproductive organs. Both rich and poor were affected, and many queens died this way, affecting the course of history.

3. Choking on a Fly

Adrian IV (c. 1100-1159) was the only Englishman to be Pope. During the last few months of his life, he suffered from quinsy, an ailment better known as tonsillitis. Taking a sip of wine, the poor man inhaled a fly which had been swimming in his goblet. Without the existence yet of the Heimlich maneuver, Adrian IV choked on the combination of the fly and pus from his tonsils.

2. Mass Suicide

On February 25, 1336 approximately 4,000 individuals were defending Pilenai Castle in Lithuania. They were greatly outnumbered. Facing defeat by the Teutonic Knights and possibly slavery, their leader Duke Margiris ordered that they set fire to the castle and destroy their possessions before committing mass suicide.

1. Black Death

Weak immune systems, poor medical care, hunger and infectious diseases caused countless deaths in Medieval times, but none were so devastating as the Black Death. As stated in a lecture slide on the Black Death by History and Headlines’s own Dr. Matthew Zarzeczny, “the virulent combination of bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic plagues that destroyed one third or one half of the population of Europe between 1347 and 1352” is notably the most deadly force of all time. The pandemic swept through Europe in a very short time and is responsible for the death of least 75 million people throughout Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. Painful tumors, infected lesions, difficulty breathing and finally death overcame its helpless victims as swiftly as it swept from once person to the next.

While it is true that not everyone in the Middle Ages died before they reached their own middle age, however, many people did. Perhaps what makes some historical figures most notable is not how they lived but rather how they died.

Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think was the most bizarre way to die in the Middle Ages? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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For another interesting event that happened on August 24, please see the History and Headlines article: “A Bad Day to be Jewish or Why Jews Think They Need a Country of Their Own.”

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please read…

DuBruck, Edelgard E. and Barbara I. Gusick. Death and Dying in the Middle Ages. Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers, 1999.

Medieval elites used handwashing as a shrewd ‘power play.’ Here’s how.

The before-meal wash was an important ritual for peasants and nobility alike—especially since people often ate with their hands.

No everyday task has taken on more importance this past year than handwashing. From the beginning of the pandemic, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised “cleaning hands in a specific way,” lathering and scrubbing for 20 seconds has become a ritual, especially when returning home after a foray into the coronavirus-plagued world.

It’s the sort of ritual that medieval Europeans would recognize, although for them it was often a more social exercise than we are currently allowed. People living in the Middle Ages are commonly assumed to have had poor personal hygiene, but in truth many were well-practiced in cleanliness. Born of necessity, handwashing evolved into a highly choreographed demonstration of power and wealth. It was a “sign of civility,” says Amanda Mikolic, curatorial assistant for the Department of Medieval Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio. (Discover how pandemics changed medieval burial practices.)

Kings and peasants alike washed up before and after meals. Most people ate with their hands—cutlery was rare and food was often consumed using stale bread called trenchers. Washing away the day’s grime was necessary and a sign of respect for whoever was feeding you. "Let your fingers be clean, and your fingernails well-groomed," commanded Les Contenances de Table, a 13th-century medieval text on table manners.

Medieval nobility and clergy took hand and face washing to new heights, with the rituals around monarchs being especially elaborate. Those who dined with a medieval European king were greeted by minstrels playing beautiful music on a harp or vielle (a medieval ancestor to the violin) and ushered into a lavatory with “luxurious basins … fresh white towels, and scented perfumed water,” according to Mikolic. Surrounded by servants, guests cleaned their hands, taking great care not to sully the pristine towels. Women would have washed their hands before they arrived, ensuring that “when they blotted their hands on these white cloths, not a speck of dirt or soil would be there—proving their virtuous, clean nature.”

Once everyone was seated in the great hall, the king would enter. The guests would stand and watch as the king then washed his own hands. Only after the king had finished would everyone else take their seats. It was “a power play to show who’s in charge,” says Mikolic, “as most everything in the entire program was.”

Strict guidelines governed how the nobles ate, some of which would likely meet with CDC approval. Les Contenances de Table, as translated by Jeffrey Singman and Jeffrey Forgeng in their book Daily life in Medieval Europe, lists a whole range of dining rules:

“Once a morsel has been touched, let it not be returned to the plate.

Do not touch your ears or nose with your bare hands.…

It is ordered by regulation that you should not put a dish to your mouth.

He who wishes to drink must first finish what is in his mouth.

And let his lips be wiped first.

Once the table is cleared, wash your hands, and have a drink.”

Elaborate rituals required ostentatious tools. Crusaders brought luxurious Aleppo soap made from olive and laurel oils to Europe. Soon enough, the French, Italians, Spanish, and eventually the English all started making their own version of Aleppo soap with local olive oils rather than the smelly animal fat of centuries past. Perhaps the most well-known of these European versions is Spain's Castile soap, which is still made and shipped around the world today.

Ornate vessels such as aquamaniles (pitchers) and lavabos (essentially a hanging bowl with spouts) were filled with the warm, scented water used during handwashing. In the wealthiest households, servants would pour the fragrant water onto the hands of those dining. These receptacles were so prized that Jeanne d’Évreux, queen of France and wife to Charles IV, included several aquamaniles among the precious table decorations in her will.

But eventually handwashing began to fall out of practice. Many scholars blame the fork, which wasn’t commonly used until the 18th century. “The whole ritual nature around handwashing starts to fade when tableware starts to become more prominent, when households start having tableware for guests,” says Mikolic, “and then when you can actually eat while still wearing gloves.” (Modern table manners began in the Renaissance.)

It’s too early to say which pandemic-era rituals will stick with us. But today, long after aquamaniles and lavabos have gone out of fashion, handwashing can still be a way to show off one’s wealth. From hand-painted vessel sinks to costly soaps made with essential oils to plush Egyptian cotton towels, we continue to create luxurious rituals around washing our hands. Whenever she uses scented soaps, Mikolic says she’s reminded of the scented water of the Middle Ages. “I always chuckle.”