History 2129/EnvS 2449 Reading Guide

Fishermen, sailors, and deep sea fisheries

  • Wayne M. O’Leary, Ch.1, “The Rise of the Maine Sea Fisheries”; Ch.3, “The Industry at High Tide: The Fisheries”; Ch.9, “Changing Markets in a Changing World,” in Maine Sea Fisheries: The Rise and Fall of a Native Industry, 1830-1890 (1996), 5-39; 80-111; 252-292; endnotes: 299-303, 306-309; 328-333; appendices: 344-363. (e-reserve) .pdf
  • Wescott, History of Harpswell, Ch.17, “Commercial Fishing, 1820-1995,” 187-204.


  • What does O’Leary’s study contribute to our understanding of Maine’s coastal ecology and of the communities (economic, social, cultural, and political) that developed along Maine’s extensive shoreline?
  • In what ways was Maine particularly suited to participating in the early sea fisheries?  Why did eastern and western coast fishermen participate in different fisheries and locations?  What choices did they have?
  • How did the development of communities and economies on the coast compare and contrast to the development of the District and State as a whole?
  • How did Maine fishing “industries” differ from those in Massachusetts? Why? What were the implications of those differences for Maine fishing communities?
  • What combination of factors led to the decline in Maine’s participation in the sea fisheries, after 1865, and then after the mid 1880s?  What was the primary way that Maine fishermen adapted to “changing markets in a changing world?”
  • Was there a viable alternative to a maritime-oriented economy on the Maine coast?
  • To what extent did commercial fishing in Harpswell resemble that of the other western Maine fisheries?  In what ways did it differ?