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Eastern Marvels

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Abstract

In 1238, England experienced a glut of herring. At coastal cities near Yarmouth, an overabundance of the fish drove prices down to almost nothing; and in areas distant from the sea herring sold at a fraction of the usual price. That year the fish merchants of Gotland and Friesland decided against making the annual trip to Yarmouth, the place from which they always returned, their ships weighed down with herring. For Matthew Paris, whose Chronica maiora records this event, the availability and price of herring did not so much illustrate the microeconomics of fish production as lay bare a mentalité underlying Western European attitudes toward what is unknown and uncontainable.
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