The Shetland Islands, an archipelago off the North coast of Scotland, have been a locus of the herring fishery for hundreds of years. The established historiography has tended to emphasize three themes: the prolonged Dutch fishery, the sporadic British ventures, and the “Great Herring Fishery” of the 1870s onwards. There has been very little discussion of the Shetland-based industry before the 1870s, and even less on any Shetland industry before 1800. Indeed, a Shetlandbased herring industry before 1800 has been simply dismissed. However, new research shows evidence of a continuous Shetland-based industry since at least the beginning of the seventeenth century. This paper refutes the existing historiography to show there is ample evidence of a consistent, though smaller-scale, Shetlandic industry from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.
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