We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Clearing the Coastline

The Nineteenth-Century Ecological & Cultural Transformations of Cape Cod

Matthew McKenzie

Publication Year: 2011

In just over a century Cape Cod was transformed from barren agricultural wasteland to bountiful fishery to pastoral postcard wilderness suitable for the tourist trade. This complex social, ecological, and scientific transformation fundamentally altered how Cape Codders used and managed their local marine resources, and determined how they eventually lost them. The Cape Cod story takes the usual land-use progression--from pristine wilderness to exploitation of resources to barren wasteland--and turns it on its head. Clearing the Coastline shows how fishermen abandoned colonial traditions of small-scale fisheries management, and how ecological, cultural, and scientific changes, as well as commercial pressures, eroded established, local conservation regimes. Without these protections, small fish and small fishermen alike were cleared from Cape Cod's coastal margins to make room for new people, whose reinvention of the Cape as a pastoral "wilderness" allowed them to overlook the social and ecological dislocation that came before.

Published by: University Press of New England


pdf iconDownload PDF

Title Page

pdf iconDownload PDF


pdf iconDownload PDF
p. vii

Tables and Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. viii-ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. xi-xv

No book sees the light of day without the help of numerous friends, family members, colleagues, and professionals whose attention and support give as much life to a book as the author himself. This work is no exception. Throughout...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-6

In 2005, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts imposed a three-year ban on taking of alewives or blue-black herring. Unlike the reaction to the cod and other fishery cutbacks introduced in the 1990s, no one protested these complete...

read more

1. Wastelands

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 7-27

The Wampanoag creation story of the trickster and teacher Moshup offers important insights into how people viewed, understood, and related to...

read more

2. Management

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 28-53

Timothy Dwight was well prepared to make such a harsh assessment of Cape Cod lands, for by 1800 the Yale College president had toured much of the Northeast, taking stock of the new nation and its people at the turn of the nineteenth...

read more

3. Workspace

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 54-87

Attitudes toward Cape Cod’s wastelands would change dramatically in the first half of the nineteenth century. Initially viewed as a backwater, with ignorant and isolated people unable to grow their own food and forced to send their men off to distant...

read more

4. Prosperity

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 88-110

In February 1864 journalist Charles Nordhoff published a story about the changing times on Cape Cod. In “Mehetabel Rogers’s Cranberry Swamp,” appearing in Harper’s New Weekly Magazine, Nordhoff examined how Cape communities, now thriving...

read more

5. Abstractions

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 111-136

By 1869, southern New England’s inshore hook-and-line fishermen had come to a breaking point. As pounds took more fish and collapsed prices, those who continued to fish as their fathers and grandfathers had done saw their lives and livelihoods as endangered....

read more

6. Removals

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 137-173

The investigations from 1870 to 1872 revealed that some fisheries scientists, unlike local hook-and-line fishermen, envisioned Cape Cod’s coastlines not as the familiar and long-harvested resource whose management kept Cape Cod communities alive, but rather...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 174-179

In the 1920s two publications appeared that encapsulated, unintentionally, how changing inshore ecosystems, science, and cultural attitudes toward the coast had affected Cape Cod’s people. In the first, a report on the state alewife fisheries, Massachusetts...


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 181-205


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 207-220


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 221-227

E-ISBN-13: 9781584659457
E-ISBN-10: 1584659459
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584659181

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 712996409
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Clearing the Coastline

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Fisheries -- Massachusetts -- Cape Cod -- History -- 19th century.
  • Fishery resources -- Massachusetts -- Cape Cod -- History -- 19th century.
  • Marine resources -- Massachusetts -- Cape Cod -- History -- 19th century.
  • Fisheries -- Social aspects -- Massachusetts -- Cape Cod -- History -- 19th century.
  • Fishers -- Massachusetts -- Cape Cod -- History -- 19th century.
  • Social change -- Massachusetts -- Cape Cod -- History -- 19th century.
  • Cape Cod (Mass.) -- Environmental conditions.
  • Coastal ecology -- Massachusetts -- Cape Cod -- History -- 19th century.
  • Cape Cod (Mass.) -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Cape Cod (Mass.) -- Economic conditions -- 19th century.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access