A Neglected Chapter in the History of Capitalism | Climate & Capitalism

Uncovering an early industry that employed more workers than any field other than farming. Historians of capitalism, including Marxists, have paid little attention to a critical event in the evolution of capitalism — the European discovery and expropriation of what Francis Bacon called “the Gold Mines of the Newfoundland Fishery, of which there is none so rich.” The success of the North Sea and Newfoundland fisheries depended on merchants who had capital to buy ships and other means of production, fish workers who had to sell their labor power in order to live, and a production system based on a planned division of labor. The long-distance fishing operations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were among the first examples, and very likely the largest examples, of what Marx called manufacture — mass production, without machinery, of commodities that were sold for profit — “a specifically capitalist form of the process of social production.”


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