Clearing the Coastline: The Nineteenth-Century Ecological & Cultural Transformations of Cape Cod
Matthew McKenziePaper: $35.00
[W]ell-documented treatise . . . McKenzie convincingly argues that the inshore (alewife, herring, menhaden) bait fishery-evolving from small-scale regulation of fish runs (up rivers to spawning grounds) to commercial exploitation (using pound nets)-was the major force steering the region’s economy, culture, and ecology. The scope of scholarship is large, ranging from detailed catch data obtained from old town records to interpretations of nineteenth-century literature and pastoral art. . . . Recommended
McKenzie’s analysis shows in a systematic and engaging way how locals deployed their ecological knowledge to maintain a balance between conservation, subsistence, and development. At the same time, he takes care not to glorify them, explaining that small-scale inshore fishermen equipped with basic hand lines 'filled a local niche where immediate needs could be met with little cost, effort, or overhead.
—Journal of the History of Biology
This is a finely crafted book. McKenzie moves deftly between anecdotal and quantitative evidence, historiographical and ecological contextual information, and cogent interpretation, driving his chronological narrative toward convincing ends. Above all, he is honest. In the few places where evidence is limited, McKenzie makes it transparent, which adds credibility to all his claims. One of the first books to focus specifically on bait and bait fishers, Clearing the Coastline merits a prominent place among histories of the sea.
McKenzie’s strength is in his discussion of the fisheries themselves. He does an excellent job of describing not only the relationship between the fisheries and those that depended upon them, but also the fish and the processes necessary to get their catch to their final consumer. These sections of his book are lively, well written and engaging, peopled by characters that give life to his story. His chapter on pound nets is not just good but excellent.
—International Journal of Maritime History
An authoritative and compelling narrative that promises to be one of the best books on New England fishing in the last few decades.
—Richard Judd, Professor of Environmental History, University of Maine
MATTHEW MCKENZIE is an assistant professor of History at the University of Connecticut-Avery Point.