Seeing All the Anguilles: Eels in the Cultural Landscape of Medieval and Early Modern England
Greenlee, John Wyatt
This project traces the role of eels in English economic and cultural history from roughly the tenth century through the end of the seventeenth century. Detailing how the fish’s prevalence on the plate and in the marketplace was echoed in art, literature, language, and toponyms, I show that eels made up a critical component of medieval English cultural identity. Changes in demographics, climate, and land use from the fourteenth century onward helped shift the locus of English eel culture to London while simultaneously forcing an increasing reliance on imported fish. By the start of the seventeenth century the English in London were purchasing most of their eels live from Dutch merchants from their ships on the Thames. But a combination of wars with the Dutch and high import tariffs served finally to decouple eels from English identity by the end of the century, marking an effective end to the country’s long-held eel culture.
anguilla; eel-rent; eels; English history; London; schuyt
Travers, Thomas; Craib, Raymond
Ph. D., Medieval Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis