Mare Liberum and the Golden Mine: Anglo-Dutch Relations, the Fisheries, and the Struggle for Maritime Supremacy, 1600-1800

Nya Fest Session 1: International Trade, Mobility and Development organized by Samuel Marknäs


Samuel Marknäs


This chapter examines the Anglo-Dutch conflict within the herring and whale fisheries through a political-economic between circa 1600 and 1800. Throughout most of this period, policy and action regarding the fisheries was deeply influenced by the tenets of mercantilism. It is demonstrated herein that mercantile ideology encouraged conflict within the fisheries. Economic policy is also explored in relation to maritime ideology, which was designed to ideologically justify the economic aspirations of Great Britain and the United Provinces, herein their respective desire to take proprietorship of the fisheries. Both mercantilism and the maritime doctrine in question, known as Mare Clausum, lost their sway in the late-18th century. This weakened protectionism on all fronts, both economically and ideologically, which drastically reduced tensions between Britain and the United Provinces. Though the Dutch fishing industry virtually collapsed in the late-18th century, British fishermen continued to imitate Dutch practices, underscoring the symbolic power exercised by the Dutch.


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