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August 10, 2018
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v2.1 Reference

Breaking the Banks

Representations and Realities in New England Fisheries, 1866-1966

With skillful storytelling, Matthew McKenzie weaves together the industrial, cultural, political, and ecological history of New England's fisheries through the story of how the Boston haddock fleet—one of the region's largest and most heavily industrialized—rose, flourished, and then fished itself into near oblivion before the arrival of foreign competition in 1961. This fleet also embodied the industry's change during this period, as it shucked its sail-and-oar, hook-and-line origins to embrace mechanized power and propulsion, more sophisticated business practices, and political engagement.

Books, films, and the media have long portrayed the Yankee fisherman's hard-scrabble existence, as he faced brutal weather on the open seas and unnecessary governmental restrictions. As McKenzie contends, this simplistic view has long betrayed commercial fisheries' sophisticated legislative campaigns in Washington, DC, as they sought federal subsidies and relief and, eventually, fewer constricting regulations. This clash between fisheries' representation and their reality still grips fishing communities today as they struggle to navigate age-old trends of fleet consolidation, stock decline, and intense competition.

About the Author

Matthew McKenzie is associate professor of history and maritime studies at the University of Connecticut and author of Clearing the Coastline: The Nineteenth-Century Ecological and Cultural Transformation of Cape Cod. He currently serves on the New England Fishery Management Council.


"McKenzie presents an utterly fascinating argument, beautifully laid out and elegantly written."—Dona Brown, author of Inventing New England: Regional Tourism in the Nineteenth Century

"Breaking the Banks supplies an arresting, nuanced, and convincing approach to the harsh realities of North American fisheries, tracing, as good history must, the play of change and continuity over time."—Edward MacDonald, coeditor of Time and a Place: An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island

"[A] meticulously researched, carefully documented, and engagingly written study."—CHOICE

9781625343918 : breaking-the-banks-mckenzie
Paperback / softback
224 Pages
$28.95 USD

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