History of the Germans

Ep. 111: Hewing and Herring - The Copper Mines of Falun and the Fisheries of Skane

July 6, 2023

“on its eastern side the sea breaks through and cuts off the western side of Skaane; and this sea commonly yields each year an abundant haul to the nets of the fishers. Indeed, the whole sound is apt to be so thronged with fish that any craft which strikes on them is with difficulty got off by hard rowing, and the prize is captured no longer by tackle, but by simple use of the hands.” So writes the the late 12th century Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus about Zealand, the island he believed to be the most delightful province and heart of Denmark.

In the year 1400, 550 ships arrived in Lübeck, bringing 65,000 barrels of salted Herring to the city at the mouth of the Trave River. But that was only a fraction of the total that is estimated to have been as much as 300,000 barrels of herring a year that were caught in the narrow sound between Copenhagen and Malmo and then processed in a giant temporary market town on the Skanör peninsula. All these vast quantities of fish were needed to feed the European population who had not only acquired a good dose of piety but also as many as 140 fast days per year when the consumption of hot-blooded animals was banned.

How the trade in Baltic Herring became a monopoly of the Hanseatic league and the backbone of its trading network is what we will discuss in this episode. No worries, it is not just about salting techniques and the difficulties of shipping a load of fish over thousands of miles. There will be a battle with knights and everything…..and an extended detour into the largest copper mine in Europe that funded the 30-years war. I hope you will enjoy it.

The music for the show is Flute Sonata in E-flat major, H.545 by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach (or some claim it as BWV 1031 Johann Sebastian Bach) performed and arranged by Michel Rondeau under Common Creative Licence 3.0.

As always:

Homepage with maps, photos, transcripts and blog: Episode 112 - Grain and Beer • History of the Germans Podcast

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For this episode I again relied

heavily on:


Philippe Dollinger: Die Hanse –

definitely my go-to-book for this season


Die Hanse, Lebenswirklichkeit und Mythos, herausgegeben von Jürgen Bracker,

Volker Henn and Rainer Postel


Rolf Hammel-Kieslow: Die Hanse


If you want to know more about the story of the Swedish

copper mining have a look at the Falu Gruva website Falu Gruva - Upptäck tusen år av historia

or go to the Unesco world heritage site about Falu Gruva and look through the

application for the inclusion on the World heritage List which gives a very

detailed account of the mining activities there: Mining Area of the

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