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Fighting the Minotaur: Resistance to technological change in the Mediterranean sponge fishing industry, 1840-1922

Abstract : In the first half of the nineteenth century, industrialization increased the demand for sponges extracted by the sponge fishermen of the Dodecanese Archipelago in the Aegean Sea. This had widespread repercussions, leading to increasing numbers of sponge fishermen, the geographical expansion of fishing zones and the evolution and diversification of fishing techniques. In this context, foreign sponge traders imposed the hard-hat diving suit, which enabled divers to remain underwater for several hours without surfacing. It was therefore perceived as being more efficient than traditional skin-diving. But this equipment greatly exacerbated the physical risks faced by the divers, with injuries and fatalities increasing markedly. It also required heavy financial investments that compounded the losses of fishermen and their families. With hindsight, these investments were catalysts of the major socio-economic upheaval that followed. As well as provoking mass revolt among the islanders of the Dodecanese, this entailed modifications in crews and community structure as a nascent model of capitalist organization marked the development of the sponge fishery.
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Submitted on : Friday, December 4, 2020 - 1:45:12 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - 10:59:54 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Friday, March 5, 2021 - 6:59:12 PM

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Maia Fourt, Daniel Faget, Thierry Perez. Fighting the Minotaur: Resistance to technological change in the Mediterranean sponge fishing industry, 1840-1922. International Journal of Maritime History, SAGE Publishing, 2020, 32 (2), pp.337-353. ⟨10.1177/0843871420920958⟩. ⟨hal-02932097⟩

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